Saddle Mountain Proposed Wilderness

Location: Within the Gila Bend Mountains National Conservation Area
Size: 24,237 acres

Although positioned just 60 miles west of metropolitan Phoenix, Saddle Mountain has retained its wilderness qualities and opportunities for solitude.

Saddle Mountain is a distinctive landmark between Phoenix and Los Angeles that has been recognized by travelers for thousands of years. The mountain's multi-faceted shape and unique volcanic geology provide a variety of terrain that includes dramatic natural settings with high levels of solitude.

Wilderness Protection

Migration of bighorn sheep, desert tortoise, deer, quail, red foxes, and other Sonoran Desert species occurs between Saddle Mountain and the rugged lands of Signal Mountain and Woolsey Peak wilderness areas. Keeping these critical linkages open and protected for wildlife will safeguard the biodiversity of western Maricopa County.

As part of the larger Gila Bend Mountains National Conservation Area (NCA), Saddle Mountain designated wilderness would create a strong core of ecologically significant protected public lands — both for human access and enjoyment and wildlife longevity — just a stone’s throw from millions of people in metropolitan Phoenix and its West Valley.

Wildlife

The area’s is spectrum of vegetation and varied terrain provide great habitat for wildlife. The proposed unit is home to a diversity of species including the desert tortoise, Gila monsters, kit foxes, mule deer, Desert bighorn sheep, quail and range of raptors (e.g., cooper hawks, prairie falcons, and red tail hawks).

Saddle Mountain’s steep slopes have numerous cliffs and alcoves that protect young lambs from predators like coyotes. These natural safe havens have allowed the Saddle Mountain bighorn sheep herd to flourish. The herd has become strong enough that in 2009, Arizona Game and Fish Department relocated five sheep from this population to the western Buckeye Hills.

The proposed unit also provides critical wildlife linkages to the Eagletail Mountains Wilderness. Keeping these critical linkages open and protected for wildlife will safeguard the biodiversity of western Maricopa County.

Recreation

Boy in field of wildflowers

 

The unit’s numerous washes, canyons, and peaks provide visitors with superb opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, hunting, bird watching, horseback riding, star gazing, and other quiet forms of recreation that are popular in the Saddle Mountain region. Folks can also stop off for a restful soak in the El Dorado Hot Springs, located just outside of Tonopah.

In the spring, with adequate winter rains, the slopes of Saddle Mountain burst into color with Mexican poppies, owl clover, paintbrush, globe mallow, and other native blooms are a nature photographers' delight.

Geologic Significance

Saddle Mountain is a showcase of volcanic forces at work. From a layman’s observation, it appears to be the highly eroded remains of an extinct volcano. The name comes from a very prominent saddle in the central part of the unit, but visitors will find dozens of other, less-distinct saddles in the unit’s highly complex topography.

Archaeological Significance

In the prehistoric past, Saddle Mountain was part of the trade route linking the central Arizona native peoples with those living along the Colorado River. An amazing array of prehistoric and historic remnants abounds in the area, including five National Register-eligible prehistoric sites and one proposed Archeological District. Rock art abounds in this archaeologically significant unit. One 1995 archaeological study showed seasonal utilization of the Saddle Mountain area continuously for more than 3,000 years.

One 1995 archaeological study showed utilization of the Saddle Mountain area continuously for more than 3,000 years.