Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument Superintendent Steve Riley announced today that the Cliff Dwellings Unit of the National Monument is now anticipated to be closed from October 24, 2011 until just before Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011. The closure is due to major repairs scheduled for the West Fork Bridge on New Mexico Highway 15, one mile south of the Cliff Dwellings. The one-month closure will allow A.S. Horner, Incorporated of Albuquerque, under contract with the New Mexico Department of Transportation, to reconstruct the north approach of the bridge that was damaged by flooding in 2008 and 2010. After the road reopens, there may be brief closures of the roadway due to continued construction activities on the abutments on both ends of the bridge.
To allow visitors a unique experience during this closure, guided tours will be available at no cost at the TJ Site of the Monument. Tours of the TJ Site will provide visitors the opportunity to examine the above-ground evidence of an unexcavated, 200-room Classic Mimbres pueblo located just east of the Gila Visitor Center. The TJ Site is accessible ONLY by guided tour. Tours will be offered daily at 11 am and 2 pm. Tours are limited to 20 persons and take approximately 1 1/2 hours. 10 spaces on each tour may be reserved in advance by calling the Gila Visitor Center at 575-536-9461. Participants MUST be at the Gila Visitor Center by tour times.
Visitors should come dressed for winter weather, as the mesa top can be cold and windy, and wear sturdy hiking boots, as the ground is rough and can be muddy. Once NM Highway 15 reopens, TJ Site tours will no longer be offered. For up-to-date information please call the Gila Visitor Center at 575-536-9461 or visit the Monument’s web site at www.nps.gov/gicl.
To visit partially excavated Mimbres pueblos and gather more information on the Mimbres people, visit the Mimbres Cultural Heritage Site just off of New Mexico Highway 35 at mile 3.5, at 14 Sage Road. This site is open daily from 11 am to 3 pm and offers not only an interpretive walking tour through the prehistoric sites, but a chance to visit two late 19th century ranch houses and exhibits, some on loan from the Contact Station at the Cliff Dwellings trail head. Visit their web site at www.mimbresculturesite.com for additional information.
Throughout the road closure the Cliff Dwellings will be formally CLOSED for their protection and so that staff can be redirected to tours at the TJ Site. Persons entering the Cliff Dwellings at any time during this period are subject to ticketing and fines.