Gila River Festival

The sixth annual Gila River Festival – planned in and around Silver City, September 16-19, 2010 – will celebrate the role of the Gila River in supporting southwest New Mexico’s rich biological diversity.  One of the Southwest’s premier nature festivals, the Gila River Festival attracts an audience of nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts eager to learn about and experience the Gila’s natural wonders.  Festival attendees will enjoy a variety of expert-guided field trips in the Gila National Forest and along the Gila River, lectures with leading scientists on the Gila’s biodiversity, films, family activities, workshops and downtown art walk.

The Gila is New Mexico’s last free-flowing river, winding its way from its headwaters in the Gila Wilderness Area, through water-carved canyons and valleys before flowing out of the Lower Box into Arizona. Annual snowmelt and monsoonal floods sustain the Gila, one of North America’s biodiversity hot spots, with many plant and animal species that are found nowhere else.

In keeping with the United Nations declaration of 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, the 6th annual Gila River Festival celebrates the Gila River as the lifeblood of our biologically diverse landscape.

This year’s Festival begins in Silver City’s historic Silco Theater with a keynote address by author, activist, and teacher Mary Sojourner.  Her presentation, “Connections: the Marvelous Complexity of Place,” will speak to the importance of traveling home, “both to the connections with childhood Place and to this remarkable Gila bioregion that needs us so much.”  Sojourner will read from her newest book, Bonelight: Ruin and Grace in the New Southwest, and from essays written from the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.

Experience a festival within a festival: for the first time, the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival is part of the Gila River Festival. As the nation’s largest environmental film festival, a variety of exciting films will be featured such as Flathead Wild, A Simple Question, Watershed Revolution, and entertaining short films, including Get Up, Stand Up and Carpa Diem.

The Gila River Festival offers numerous field trips to the Gila National Forest and Gila River lead by experts in the field.  If you can’t tell a toad from a frog, join the Creepy-Crawlies hike.  Want to see a bat up close and personal? There’s an evening bat field trip waiting for you.  Head to the Gila Cliff Dwellings for a visit to a beaver dam or to the Gila River to the site of future river otter reintroduction. Go fishing with New Mexico Game Commissioner and author Dutch Salmon.  If you prefer your nature without teeth, join the Gila River Native Plant field trip.  Back by popular demand, a Gila River kayak trip is the perfect way to relax, cool off and experience one of the Southwest’s last wild rivers. This is just a sampling of the guided trips offered this year.

For the armchair naturalist, a variety of lectures will be presented at the comfy Silco Theater. Come hear about jaguars, the effects of climate change on Gila Trout, ecosystem tipping points, mountain lions, wolves, and much more. Kieran Suckling, founder of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, will talk about “What We’re Losing, How to Save It All.”

Festival attendees can get more hands-on with workshops on wildlife photography, animal tracking, “Writing from Place” with keynote speaker Mary Sojourner, and backyard habitat restoration.

Learn about the Gila’s historical biodiversity with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the internationally acclaimed Eisele, Ballmer and Gehlm Collections of prehistoric Mimbres pottery at the Western New Mexico University Museum.  You can also discover clues to ancient biodiversity on a field trip to the Dragonfly Prehistoric Rock Art Site near Fort Bayard.

For the artist in you, visit downtown Silver City galleries featuring work inspired by nature, and join the Blue Dome Gallery’s reception for artist Carlene Roters’ Web of Life show.  Roters’ work, featured on our Festival brochure and poster, freshly interprets our resident wildlife.

For the first time ever, the Gila River Festival is partnering with the Red Hot Children’s Fiesta to bring nature activities to kids right in downtown Silver City. Raptors will be on hand to connect children to the wildlife around them.

Registration is required for most festival events.  The complete festival schedule and on-line registration is available at  For more information about the Gila River Festival, call 575-538-8078 or email

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