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

Gila Riparian Preserve

New Mexico

Contact Us

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, TNC 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 TNC, local landowners, federal and state agencies, and local organizations.

TNC'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 TNC 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.


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.

See some of the animals of Gila Riparian Preserve in our trail cam slideshow.


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.

Support Our Work at the Gila Riparian Preserve

We’re grateful for your enthusiastic support! The Gila River's future is uncertain, but you can help us protect its natural floodplain, riparian habitat and wildlife.