Margie’s Peak Proposed Wilderness Area

Margie's Peak
Margie's Peak; © AWC

Location: Within the Sonoran Desert National Monument
Size: 14,566 acres

The Margie’s Peak proposed wilderness is located on the northwest end of the Maricopa Mountains inside the Sonoran Desert National Monument and is approximately 14 miles northeast from the town of Gila Bend in Maricopa County. The unit’s major feature is Margie’s Peak, which rises 1,400 feet above the surrounding bajadas to 2,492 feet. Smaller hills lie to the north, which, in conjunction with Margie’s Peak, form an isolated basin in the center of this unit.

Wilderness Protection

Margie’s Peak is an excellent example of an area that, if designated wilderness, would protect native Sonoran desert plant communities and help sustain viable populations of sensitive wildlife such as bighorn sheep and Sonoran desert tortoise. The Margie’s Peak proposed wilderness is completely within the Sonoran Desert National Monument, which was designated to protect the uninterrupted stands of saguaro cacti, populations of bighorn sheep within the Maricopa Mountains, and the historic and prehistoric artifacts that are found throughout the monument.

Over the next 10 years, the nearby community of Buckeye is expected to expand by nearly 200,000 homes, which will increase the recreational demand within Sonoran Desert National Monument. The Margie’s Peak unit is a valuable wildlife habitat area and migration corridor that provides connections for species moving into the Buckeye Hills and the Gila Bend Mountains.

Wildlife

Sonoran desert tortoise

Sonoran desert tortoise; Courtesy NPS

Bighorn sheep are known to occur on the steep rocky slopes of Margie’s Peak, which likely functions as seasonal or part time habitat for individual sheep. This unit’s proximity to the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness makes it an excellent corridor for wildlife looking for access to the Buckeye Hills and the Gila River. Margie’s Peak also contains valuable habitat for the Sonoran desert tortoise, which is considered a species of concern for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Tortoise populations can be kept sustainable by reducing road densities and limiting access to tortoise habitat, both of which can be accomplished with wilderness designation.

Recreation

The Margie’s Peak area of the monument offers excellent opportunities for solitude in deeply incised washes on the west side, which contain prime examples of Sonoran Desert tortoise habitat. Backpacking, hunting, horseback riding, photography, bird watching, and sightseeing for botanical and zoological features are all possible primitive and unconfined recreational opportunities within the Margie’s Peak proposed wilderness. Overnight camping within the area’s basin isolates a visitor from most of the light pollution of Phoenix and can be used as a great beginning or ending point for an extended backpacking experience into the North and South Maricopa wilderness areas.