Thunderstorm Safety Closures Possible
When thunderstorms are nearby, the trail to and from the Gila Cliff Dwellings is closed. Please check local forecasts before you visit. Thunderstorms are typically more likely in the afternoon. On some afternoons it is not possible to reopen. More »
Guided Tours Currently Not Available Every Day
Due to a current shortage of volunteer staffing, guided tours of the cliff are not offered every day. Check at the visitor center upon arrival. Volunteers at the Cliff Dwellings will still be available to answer questions during your self guided tours.
Feast or Famine? Introductory Essay
Houk, Rose. Mogollon. Western Natl Parks Assoc, 1992. Print.
The Mogollon (Muggy-own) were mountain and desert dwellers, whose homeland was a huge territory stretching from the Little Colorado River in Arizona to Chihuahua, Mexico, and from the Pecos River in New Mexico west to the Verde River in Arizona.
These boundaries enclose the stupendously broken terrain south of the Mogollon Rim in Arizona, the Sierra Ancha, and the little-known and inaccessible land around the Black, White, Blue and Salt Rivers. Eastward into New Mexico, high mountains alternate steep canyons whose streams drain into the great Gila River. Here, a wilderness of hundreds of thousands of acres still appears much as it did in prehistoric times.
This new culture was named after the wild Mogollon Mountains that rise up east of the San Francisco River Valley. The mountains were named for eighteenth-century Spanish Colonial governor Juan Ignacio Flores Mogollon. A geographic appellation was chosen for the prehistoric people because archeologists did not know of and did not wish to imply any affiliation with living Native Americans.
The Mogollon people grew out of a long tradition of hunters most likely from a Desert Archaic culture known as the Cochise who had lived in the Southwest B.C.E. 5,000 or 6,000. Though they mainly supported themselves on the animals they hunted and the wild plants they gathered, the Archaic people also ate domesticated corn and squash.
A simple people in many respects, the Mogollon first lived in pit houses and molded a plain brown or red pottery. As with corn, pottery was an invention in which the Mogollon acted as conduits, transmitting the idea to their southwestern neighbors. Later the Mogollon built aboveground pueblos and manufactured black-on-white ceramics. Other characteristics set them apart as well: they grooved their stone axes three-quarters of the way around the surface and built large rectangular rooms for ceremonies or communal gatherings.
One of the last places inhabited by the Mogollon in New Mexico is protected in Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. In Caves in the cliff walls of a small canyon emptying into the Gila River, immigrants from the Reserve area lived for only about twenty years, from C.E. 1270 to C.E. 1290. Besides the attraction of the shelter of the caves, they settled here because of a permanent spring.
Did You Know?
Geronimo said, “I was born at the headwaters of the Gila River.” The Gila area in New Mexico is the traditional homeland of the Eastern Bands of Chiricahua Apache and remains important to their oral traditions, history and cultural identity.