East Clanton Hills Proposed Wilderness

Clouds over proposed wilderness
© Ellen Pierce

Location: Within the Gila Bend Mountains National Conservation Area
Size: 5,223 acres

Lying just south of the existing Eagletail Mountains Wilderness, created by the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990, the East Clanton Hills proposed wilderness area “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. Creosote bush and white bursage vegetation provide lush plant cover in the flats and bajadas of this classic Sonoran Desert landscape, where native desert tortoise and myriad song birds thrive.

Wilderness Protection

As part of the larger Gila Bend Mountains National Conservation Area (NCA), the East Clanton Hills designated wilderness would create a strong core of ecologically significant protected public lands — for human access, cultural enrichment, and wildlife longevity — as the urban fringe of metropolitan Phoenix and its West Valley continues to creep further west. In addition to offering diversity of terrain for quiet recreation, this proposed unit would serve as a vital wildlife corridor for the larger ecosystem of lands that surround it, facilitating safe wildlife migration from ranges to the north and south.

Wildlife

The rugged terrain showcases plant species from the upper Sonoran life zone, consisting of palo verde, saguaro, and other mixed cacti such as teddy bear cholla and barrel cactus. These slopes provide valuable migration and dispersal corridors for desert bighorn sheep moving between the Eagletail Mountains and adjacent mountains, such as Cortez Peak, Columbus Peak, Yellow Medicine Butte, Dixie Peak, as well as the Woolsey Peak and Signal Mountain wilderness areas.

Recreation

Primitive recreational opportunities abound in this quiet corner of the West Desert — accessible by Arlington Clanton Well Road — where hunting, hiking, bird watching, horse back riding, and camping are common three seasons of the year. In the spring, with adequate winter rains, these flatlands explode in wildflower colors of hot pink, bright orange, and lively yellow — signaling the arrival of warmer summer temperatures to the desert.