A glorious fall equinox day set the stage for NMLC staff to show off the River Ranch as part of the 2016 Gila River Festival – the first time we have had the honor of leading a tour during this annual event that draws visitors from across the country.
Ron Troy, NMLC’s Southern New Mexico project manager, guided visitors through the Mimbres River to the Tigner Velvet Ash Grove. Staff from state Forestry and Game and Fish agencies helped interpret the ranch’s rich history and ecologic diversity. The tour drew 20 visitors, who waded the river and shoulder-high sacaton to view the oasis of riparian habitat amid the upland Chihuahuan Desert scrubland.
The most recent owners, Gene and Elisabeth Simon, acquired the River Ranch when Gene was 65 years old. After running a successful newspaper business in Pennsylvania, the journalist and Quaker peace activist landed on the Mimbres River through a series of trades. The River Ranch allowed them to launch their dream of ranching and conserving the land, sharing this amazingly diverse watershed with otters and beavers, yellow-billed cuckoos and black hawks. The Tigner Grove of velvet ash trees dating back 125 years is thought to have been saved from the logger’s axe because the grove offered cooling shade to workers from an historic tomato cannery located on the ranch.
NMLC facilitated the sale of the River Ranch from the estate of Gene and Elisabeth Simon to New Mexico Game and Fish in 2014. Now under their ownership, Game and Fish is developing a management plan for this special property. Additionally, a conservation easement co-held by NMLC and the State Forestry Division will protect the ranch from being developed, fulfilling Gene and Elisabeth’s wishes to conserve its rich heritage forever.