New Mexico's last free-flowing river.
The Gila Riparian Preserve New Mexico's last free-flowing river. © Erika Nortemann/The Nature Conservancy

Places We Protect

The Gila Riparian Preserve

New Mexico

New Mexico's last free-flowing river.


The Gila Riparian Preserve protects more than 1,200 acres of the southwest's fragile riparian habitat and the verdant gallery woodland among the Gila River, the last of the southwest's major free-flowing rivers.

In 2009, the Conservancy added 40 acres of important riverside habitat to the Gila Riparian Preserve. The new stretch inserts an important piece to this project area, which includes the preserve and more than 250,000 acres collaboratively managed by the Conservancy, local landowners, federal and state agencies, and local organizations.

The Conservancy's long-term vision for the preserve is simple: let the river rediscover its natural floodplain and enable new cottonwoods and willows to spring up, providing habitat for neotropical migratory songbirds, especially the southwest willow flycatcher—a species whose population is in trouble. A host of other rare animal species also use the preserve's habitats.


A portion of the preserve is owned by the Conservancy in conjunction with the State of New Mexico pursuant to the Natural Lands Protection Act. Further down the river, the Conservancy was instrumental in protecting 560 acres in the Gila Lower Box which is now managed by the Bureau of Land Management. 

The Lichty Ecological Research Center, located on the preserve, is a research hub designed to advance understanding of the Gila and Mimbres watersheds.


We’re grateful for the enthusiastic support for our efforts! The Gila River's future is uncertain, but your support will help save it. Will you renew your commitment today?


Bring your binoculars and keep an eye out for migratory neotropical songbirds.

The Gila River supports one of the highest concentrations of breeding birds in North America and an astonishing array of plant and animal life. In the river are found several fish, including the loach minnow and spikedace, which are federally listed as threatened. A host of other rare animal species also use the preserve's habitats.

The rugged Gila Wilderness is home to bobcat and cougar, as well as mule deer, white-tailed deer and pronghorn. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and elk were both were reintroduced in the 1950s.


From Silver City, drive west and north on U.S. Highway 180 about 28 miles to Cliff. Then take a right on NM 211 and follow for about 1 1/2 miles. Follow the left fork in the road which is NM 293 and continue up the valley about 7 miles until the road dead ends in a National Forest campground.  The preserve begins on the north side of the green fence.


For more information about the Gila Riparian Preserve, please call the New Mexico Chapter at (505) 988-3867. For more information regarding other activities, events and services in the Silver City area, visit The Silver Web.