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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

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Location of Gila Cliff Dwellings NM in the Sonoran
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Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

Size: 216 hectares
Elevation range: 2,027–2,079 meters

Established in 1907, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, in southwest New Mexico, protects and interprets a complex of 15th-century Mogollon cliff dwellings and other associated prehistoric sites.

As with many other cultural sites, the location of these important prehistoric resources is directly related to scarce and important natural resources: the perennial waters and associated rich natural resources of the upper Gila River, whose headwaters are here.

Though it is part of the Sonoran Desert Network, Gila Cliff Dwellings NM lies east of the Sonoran Desert, in the Arizona–New Mexico Mountains ecoregion. Its location at a biogeographic transition point between the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts on the east and west, and the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Madre to the north and south, is reflected in the park's diverse flora and fauna.

The primary issues of natural-resource concern at the park include invasive exotic plants and aquatic invasive species, such as American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeiana) and crayfish (Orcontectes spp.), and the consequent decline, and even extirpation, of many native aquatic vertebrates. Declines in native amphibian species have been widely observed throughout the American Southwest, and are also attributed to habitat alteration, extended drought, increased UV radiation, non-native fishes, and chytrid fungus.

The Sonoran Desert Network monitors air quality; climate; exotic plants; groundwater; landbirds; seeps, springs, and tinajas; terrestrial vegetation and soils; and streams at Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

Life Zones

With an elevation range of approximately 6,640–6,821 feet (2,027–2,079 m), Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is part of the temperate forest life zone. Average annual precipitation is 19.8 inches (504 mm).

Lifezone elevation profile for Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Life zone elevation profile for Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument.

American Bullfrog

American bullfrog

Native to the central and eastern U.S., the American bullfrog was introduced to the western U.S. accidentally, during trout stockings, through the aquarium trade, and for sport and pest control. In the West, it competes with and preys on native species. Photo by Russ Ottens; University of Georgia;

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster