Gila River film chronicles three moms’ powerful journey


On Dec. 2 and 3, New Mexico’s Gila River will flow near the Rio Grande in a film at the Fountain Theatre in Mesilla. 

“Journey Down the Gila’’ is a cinematic journey down America’s first “Wilderness River” – 37 miles through the Gila Wilderness. This feature length documentary tells the story of three New Mexico teens who died in service to the wild places they loved, their mothers’ trip down the river they sought to protect, and the struggle to keep the Gila flowing free.  
Four years and multiple river trips in the making, Journey Down the Gila chronicles the struggle to keep the Gila River free-flowing.

The film features interviews from long-time advocates and culminates with a visit the three mothers made to Washington D.C. to advocate for federal legislation to protect the Gila River in New Mexico as a Wild and Scenic river.

“My desire is that the river that our children held dear will be protected,” said Jennifer Mahl, one of the mothers featured in the film. “I want people to see the beauty of the Gila Wilderness through our eyes and, most importantly, through the eyes of our three children. Our children can no longer speak for themselves, so it is now our duty to carry on their legacy and share their vision with the world. This film is a very effective way of sharing that message.”

At the Dec., 3 matinee, New Mexico author Philip Connors will be joining the event. Connors has been a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest for 21 years and is the author of three books.

The most recent, “A Song for the River” is centered around the Gila, a landscape he describes as “poised on the knife edge of calamity and resilience. I am pleased to join with the filmmakers of Journey Down the Gila to bring awareness to this incredible gem of a wilderness river,” he said. “My work and theirs dovetail in our purposes: to remember and celebrate those champions of conservation who inspired us in defense of a place we all love."

Both screenings will include a Q-and-A with one of film's co-producers, and an update on recent federal legislation to designate the Gila as a Wild and Scenic River.

Screenings times are 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3. Tickets are available in advance at or at the Fountain Theatre website: