A little while back, I posted about a visit to Bandelier and the cliff dwellings there. I’ve also visited the Gila Cliff Dwellings. This is a much smaller site, at least as shared by the park service, and rather more off the beaten path. Bandelier is pretty close to I-25, the main north-south corridor from New Mexico up through Colorado and on. In contrast, to get to the Gila one first must travel well over an hour. I spent several years living in Silver City, New Mexico — about 1 hour’s drive from I-25 and from I-10 (the main East-West route). It took a long time driving along very swervy roads (often at under 25mph) to get to the Gila site.
According to the Park Service, many civilizations used the caves as temporary housing over the centuries. Around about 800 years ago, the people of the culture called Mogollon decided to live in the caves for a while and built dwellings. They traded with other peoples before deciding to move on after about twenty years.
Then again, that’s what they say now. The more time passes, however, the more the story evolves and changes–and often grows closer to the traditions of local peoples (in this case, in particular the Apache). I would be interested to go back in another decade or two to see how understandings have deepened. In the meantime, I’m grateful that we are preserving the site–and only wish we could preserve (and in particular not destroy) others of importance (sometimes in ignorance but others by deliberate action).
If you’re wondering whether the site was worth the drive–the answer is most definitely yes!