G I L A   C L I F F   D W E L L I N G S

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view; May your mountains rise into and above the clouds --Edward Abbey

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings, Silver City, New Mexico

explored & photographed by: Shady

Experience a 360-degree virtual view from inside Gila Cliff dwellings (thanks, Lobo!)

It was a still, sunny day when I set out to explore the mysterious and ancient Gila Cliff Dwellings. These vast, primitive remains of the former home of the Mogollon tribe (who mysteriously abandoned the site in the early 1300s) are a place of great history and mystery.

The peaks of the towering cliffs loomed above the bridge at the trailhead where we started our hike, a mile-long trail through the canyon that lead across the west fork of the Gila River and then up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, about one hundred and fifty feet above the canyon floor...

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

The rugged, steep-sided canyon is cut by a shallow river, and thickly forested with ponderosa pine, New Mexico juniper, pinon pine, Gambel's oak, Douglas fir, and alligator juniper. At the bank of the river we saw a hummingbird moth hovering around a purple cluster of Beebalm, and there were lizards all over the place, scurrying about and occasionally pausing on sun-baked rocks to do some of those funny lizard-pushups that they do.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

At the base of the cliffs, the trail lead up out of the forest in a natural stairway carved out of the mountain itself, then wound up to the caves, which slowly came into view between the foliage as we hiked. And they were a pretty amazing site, looking all prehistoric and stuff way up there on the sheer face of the cliffs.

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

The trail snaked up and around the very edge of the mountain; it was a precarious hike between a (BIG) rock and a very-very steep place. At some points the trail was barely more than a narrow ledge as it wound closer and closer to the caves... one slip and it woulda been flattened Shade-cakes. Finally, we rounded one last corner and the dwellings came into sight. After taking in the amazing view for a moment, we climbed the wooden ladder at the entrance and disappeared into the cool darkness of the spacious caves...

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

Gila Cliff Dwellings

The cliff dwellings used to consist of forty rooms within five large sandstone cliff caves, built with clay that was gathered from the nearby creek or along the Gila River. The wooden poles sticking out from the structures are support beams called vigas. Painted pictographs still adorn the cave walls, and the enormous stone ceiling is still blackened from the smoke of many years of smoldering fires.

 Within the vast interior of the caves stood a maze of well-preserved yet ancient structures including work areas, living quarters, and ceremonial rooms. A bench and fire pit were still visible in one room. With all the numerous 'hallways' and 'stairways' and 'rooms' inside that place, it felt like a Bedrock apartment complex, or something. Heh. It was really amazing to explore such an ancient site, which has stood abandoned for sooo long... you can just feel the history seeping from the walls. And the enigmatic disappearance of it's inhabitants is a tantalizing mystery to ponder...

CONTINUE TO GILA PAGE TWO

 

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