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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Photo Gallery

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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a U.S. National Monument in the Gila Wilderness (The Nation's First Wilderness Area) of southwestern New Mexico. The 533-acre (2.16 km) national monument was established by executive proclamation on November 16, 1907, by President Theodore Roosevelt. It is located in the extreme southern part of Catron County. Tourists can access the site by traveling from US 180, from Silver City, New Mexico, to NM 15.

The first European contact with the Gila Cliff Dwellings was by Henry B. Ailman an emigrant to New Mexico who was residing in Silver City at the time. In the summer of 1878, Ailman found himself, along with a bunch of friends, on a jury list. To avoid serving, they organized a prospecting trip to the Gila River where the site was discovered.

Throughout the following years, many visitors would study the dwellings. In the next couple of years, the site became more accessible. In the 1890s the Hill brothers had created a resort at the nearby Gila Hot Springs. The Hill brothers would take guests on tours to the nearby cliff dwellings. In June 1906, Rep. John F. Lacey of Iowa and chairman of the House Public Lands Committee introduced a bill for the regulation of prehistoric sites. The Act for the Preservation of Antiquities, also known as the Antiquities Act, the president was authorized to set aside land that contained prehistoric and historic ruins by executive order.

These reservations were called national monuments and were to be managed by the Interior, Agriculture, and War departments, depending on which agency had controlled a particular site before it was withdrawn. In December 1906, Gila Forest Supervisor R. C. McClure reported to the chief forester in Washington, D.C. that the Gila Cliff Dwellings warranted preservation by the national government to avoid further removal of artifacts by hunters and other prospectors.
   

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