Dixie Peak Proposed Wilderness

Location: Within the Gila Bend Mountains National Conservation Area
Size: 9,653 acres

Sonoran Desert tortoises are threatened by unrestricted off-road vehicle recreation

Sonoran Desert tortoises are threatened by unrestricted
off-road vehicle recreation; © Daniel Patterson

The proposed Dixie Peak wilderness unit is within the Gila Bend Mountains National Conservation Area, along with five other proposed wilderness units: East Clanton Hills, Columbus Peak, Cortez Peak, Yellow Medicine Butte, and Red Rock Canyon. This proposed wilderness unit includes the 1,500 foot Dixie Peak in its southeast corner. Fourth of July Wash serves as the western boundary of the proposed unit separating it from the neighboring proposed Yellow Medicine Butte wilderness unit. There are outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation throughout the proposed units and extraordinary scenic views from the top of many peaks. This area of Sonoran Desert includes palo verde-saguaro, mixed desert scrub, and creosote-bursage plant communities and habitat for threatened desert tortoise and other sensitive species such as bighorn sheep.

Wilderness Protection

The proposed Dixie Peak wilderness possesses both outstanding opportunities for solitude and primitive and unconfined recreation. The proposed unit “generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticeable,” as outlined in The Wilderness Act of 1964. The human impacts that do exist within the area come in the form of established roads and campsites as well as other unmaintained routes. Some of these routes have begun to be reclaimed and are no longer in use by mining claim owners or recreational users.

Wildlife

Visitors can find classic Sonoran Desert solitude in the Dixie Peak area

Visitors can find classic Sonoran Desert solitude in the Dixie Peak area;
© Mark Miller

The proposed units also includes iconic Sonoran Desert wildlife such as desert bighorn sheep, Sonoran desert tortoise, Yuma clapper rail bird, banded Gila monster, lowland leopard frog, and several types of bats. One of the most significant values of these areas is the contiguous habitat that the proposed units provide for wildlife. These areas are critical to maintaining viable wildlife populations and linkages between Woolsey Peak and Signal Mountain Wilderness in the east to the Eagletail Mountain Wilderness in the west.

Animal movement across the landscape has always been—and continues to be—important to allow species the mobility necessary to find food sources, water, breeding mates, and be able to avoid danger, especially as the Sonoran Desert continues to change with human impacts and the presence of a burgeoning population in western Maricopa County.

Recreation

Seclusion in the many washes and canyons throughout the proposed units is not difficult. There are basins, ridgelines, and even a mountaintop that provides outstanding opportunities for solitude very near to metro Phoenix. In many areas, visitors can wander across vast expanses of wide-open creosote plains and feel the true solitude of the desert.

Dixie Peak Proposed Wilderness offers various levels of hiking, from flat walking in the bajadas, to rock scrambling on the peak and its ridges. Backpacking, hunting, horseback riding, photography, bird watching, and sightseeing for archeological and geological features are all possible primitive and unconfined recreational opportunities within this proposed unit.