Silver City New Mexico
Pinos Altos Mountains
Situated in the foothills of the spectacular Pinos Altos Mountains, Silver City lies just east of the Continental Divide, in southwestern New Mexico. Norman Ford, in his recent book, 50 Healthiest Places to Live and Retire, gave the historic community a high rating, primarily due to climate, elevation, terrain and "lack of urban stress."
Silver City lies at the center of an outdoor recreation paradise. It is a gateway to the three-million-three-hundred-thousand-acre Gila National Forest. The forest includes the Gila Wilderness, the first land in the world to be set aside specifically as a wilderness area and, today, the largest wilderness in the Southwest.
Silver Citys quiet, tree-lined streets, with their mellow adobe and stately Victorian homes from a bygone age, are but a short walk away from the busy downtown center with its modern shopping. Mining, ranching, tourism and the one-hundred-and-seven- year-old Western New Mexico University are the major contributors to a thriving economy.
6,142 feet above sea level
Silver City is noted for its clear mountain air, low humidity and four gentle seasons. The annual average temperature is fifty four degrees Fahrenheit, with mid-summer days in the eighties. Pleasant, above-freezing temperatures most of the winter provide near-perfect conditions for day and evening activities. The average annual rain/snow precipitation is just over fourteen inches. On average, the sun shines more than three hundred days per year, and there are at least one hundred seventy four growing days.
The Mimbres Indians (from "Mimbreno," the willow people) called the Silver City river valleys home around A.D. 1000. They produced remarkable black-on-white pottery, with a sophistication and intricacy of design seldom rivaled in all the centuries of Southwestern pottery making. Like their neighbors, the Hohokam, to the west, or the Anasazi, to the north, the Mimbres people vanished mysteriously in the early centuries of the second millennium
Silver City began as a rip-roarin' tent town in the spring of 1870, when a silver bonanza was discovered one half mile west of the present-day courthouse. Within less than a year, over eighty buildings had been constructed,, and in 1871, Silver City became the seat of Grant County. When the boom ended, the people stayed.
In those early years of development, all of southwestern New Mexico was plagued by Apache raids. Bands of these fierce warriors roamed the area, led by famous chiefs such as Chato, Cochise, Geronimo, Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves), Nana, Natchez and Victorio. Because of the rough terrain and strategic lookout points, the impenetrable Gila Wildness area was an important stronghold where the Apaches felt safe from US Army pursuit. Geronimo is said to have been born in the Gila Wilderness area.
In the late 1800's, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch were familiar with every saloon and "soiled dove" in Silver City. Between robberies, they worked as cowhands at a nearby ranch. Billy the Kid spent his early years in Silver City, and his childhood home is now the downtown site of the distinctive Murray Ryan Visitor's Center.
Other Silver City notables include General "Black Jack" Pershing and Apollo 17 Astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt.
Things To Do
Exploring the great outdoors takes on a whole new meaning in Silver City and the surrounding area. Big and small game hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, "rock hounding," horseback riding, bicycling, motorcycling, golf, tennis, birding and "critter" watching in the wild are just a few popular activities for visitors and residents alike.
For spectator entertainment there is a wide range of offerings,from symphonies and fine opera to the renowned "Cowboy Poetry" readings and wild west rodeos. Local museums and galleries are considered to be among the best in the Southwest.
Nearby lakes include Bill Evans Lake, Lake Roberts and Bear Canyon Reservoir, all within an hour drive from Silver City. Lakes a little further afieldinclude Elephant Butte, Caballo Lake and Wall Lake. Anglers have a choice of brown and rainbow trout, catfish and bass.
Within the Gila National Forest, there are almost five hundred miles of fishing streams. Someof the premier locations are at least partially accessible by road. They include Gila River stream junctures, the upper San Francisco River, Willow Creek, Negrito Creek and Whitewater Creek.
Mountain Bike Trails and Motorcycle Tours
Highways, forest roads and numerous single track trails around Silver City, combined with breathtaking mountain scenery, draw bicyclers to the area from all over the world.
The annual Tour of the Gila Bicycle Race, held May 5th through the 9th,, is listed as a "National Prestige Classic" by the U.S. Cycling Federation. It is considered to be one of the toughest bicycle races in the nation.
Several motorcycle tours over glorious winding roads with little or no traffic are also available.
Hiking & Climbing Trails
There are hundreds of superb hiking and climbing trails in and around Silver City. They include the City of Rocks State Park, a spectacular geological monolith rising from the desert floor; the famous Catwalk National Recreation Trail, which clings to the walls of Whitewater Canyon; and the beautiful Mimbres River Valley, where the Nature Conservancy has established a protected riparian area for some of the best bird watching in New Mexico.
There are many excellent hiking and climbing trails in the Gila Forest, particularly in the remote back country of the wilderness. A good map is essential for the hiker in these areas. Maps, road conditions in forest lands and other information are available at:
Supervisor's Office of the Gila National Forest
3005 E. Camino del Bosque,
Silver City, New Mexico 88061
Phone: (505) 388-8201
There are hotels and motels in Silver City, with something for every taste and price range. For more information and a complete list. Click Here. (Hotel Rates, availability, customer reviews and reservations online)
Camping & RV
Parks - Thirty campgrounds, picnic sites and rest areas are scattered throughout the Gila National Forest. Fees are charged for overnight camping at Juniper, Pinon, Dipping Vat, Mesa and Upper End Campgrounds. There is also admission for use of the Little Walnut Group Area, which is used for picnicking. For more information contact any of the Gila National Forest Ranger District Offices, which are located in Silver City, Glenwood, Mimbres, Reserve, Truth or Consequences and Quemado
Cities & Towns
San Lorenzo, New Mexico: 23 miles east
Deming, New Mexico: 65 miles east
Las Cruces, New Mexico: 112 miles east
El Paso, Texas: 150 miles east
Tucson, Arizona: 200 miles west
Albuquerque, New Mexico: 240 miles northeast
Phoenix, Arizona: 300 miles northwest
Parks & Monuments
Silver City's Three Attractions
City of Rocks State Park
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Bandelier National Monument:
Petroglyph National Monument
Recreation & Wilderness Areas
Lake Roberts Recreation Area
Catwalk National Recreation Trail
Aldo Leopold Wilderness
Historic & Points of Interest
Silver City Museum
Western New Mexico University Museum
Pinos Altos (Historic town where gold was discovered in 1859.)
Mogollon (Ghost Town.)
Bill Evans Lake (Gila River Bird and Wildlife Habitat.)
Catwalk National Recreation Trail
Fort Bayard Wildlife Refuge
Chino Open Pit Copper Mine (Oldest active mine in the Southwest.)
Kneeling Nun Historic Marker
Mimbres River Valley
Lake Roberts Vista Ruin Village
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Source: Pam Hendrickson
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