Gila River

Photo courtesy of Brad Meiklejohn

Photo courtesy of Brad Meiklejohn

The upper Gila River and its tributaries cleave the eastern Mogollon uplift of southwestern New Mexico with perhaps 200 navigable river miles in America’s first designated Wilderness. The Gila’s headwater streams find their source on the high open eastern slopes of 10,896-foot Whitewater Baldy. Water flows southeast through the snaking volcanic gorges of the west and middle forks before convening near a hub of ancestral Puebloan activity and turning south. Here, the east fork joins, the river gathers steam, and enters a remote deepening canyon that circles back to the west around a massif of rolling granite peaks. After its circuitous trip, the river finds its way to the high desert northwest of Silver City.

There, the pristine river flushes into the world of settlement, where farm after farm, town after town, and mine after mine from Silver City to the Colorado River in western Arizona suck the river completely dry. However, not everyone has equal right to the Gila’s water. In fact, agreements over rights made over 100 years ago grant more Gila water to Arizonans than to New Mexicans. More recent legislation, funding allocations, and political finagling have aimed to ensure that New Mexicans get enough water to fuel their developing farms, mines, and communities. But sadly, not everyone involved holds the preservation of the Gila Wilderness and its priceless river jewels as their primary concern.

Photo courtesy of Brad Meiklejohn

While conservationists, ecologists, hydrologists, and economists have all shown that damming the upper Gila River would be a unnecessary calamity, there is of course a contingent of New Mexican engineers and business interests that are pushing to use a new waterworks allocation to subdue the river and Wilderness with a large scale diversion dam. Apparently, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will make a determination whether to build the dam as early as 2019. We cannot let the Secretary dam the Gila!

Please write to your legislators, and local elected officials if you are a New Mexico resident. Write to Secretary Zinke. Bombard them with your passion for wild places and the common sense reasons to abolish the dam building idea. The Gila Conservation Coalition has generated superb talking points in these two one-page documents:

Key Things to Know about the AWSA and the Gila River

Solutions to Southwest New Mexico’s Long-term Water Needs


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American Packrafting Association

PO Box 13
Wilson, WY 83014