Woolsey Peak Proposed Addition

Redtail Hawk
Redtail Hawk; Courtesy
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Location: Within the Gila Bend Mountains National Conservation Area, 11 miles north of Gila Bend and 32 miles southwest of Phoenix
Size: 10,539 acres

Located in the eastern part of the Gila Bend Mountains, Woolsey Peak offers diverse and exciting topography for a first-time visitor to the Sonoran Desert. Flat desert plains roll onward to low undulating hills, basalt capped mesas, vaulting jagged mountains, and wide valleys that unfold with innumerable hidden washes verdant with vegetation. The 3,270-foot Woolsey Peak, rising 2,500 feet above the Gila River, is a geographic landmark visible throughout southwestern Arizona. The proposed addition would link up with the northern end of the Red Rock Canyon proposed wilderness, also part of the Gila Bend Mountains National Conservation Area, and form a more cohesive wildlife linkage for birds, mammals, and amphibians who call the Gila Bend Mountains home.

Wilderness Protection

Woolsey Peak was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System in the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990; the current proposal would add approximately 10,000 acres more to the Woolsey Peak wilderness unit, expanding it to include the original Wilderness Study Area boundary recommendations made in 1987 — a landscape rich with wildlife and opportunities for solitude that has changed little since that time. Wildlife linkages and landscape connectivity are an important factor in protecting Arizona’s wildlife, and this addition would form a solid migration corridor for wildlife using Signal Mountain Wilderness, Woolsey Peak Wilderness, and the Red Rock Canyon proposed wilderness.

Wildlife

Given the stark aridity of the area, the wilderness and the proposed addition contain a surprising variety of plant life, including saguaro, cholla, prickly pear, creosote, and bursage. The ephemeral washes are lined with desert mesquite, ironwood and paloverde; these diverse plant communities provide critical cover for wildlife migrating from one mountain range to another. Desert bighorn sheep, and mule deer, bobcats, mountain lions, hawks, owls, and eagles frequent the region.

Recreation

The diversity, ruggedness, and size of the wilderness and its proposed addition offer excellent opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation: backpacking trips, horseback riding, day hiking, wildlife observation, photography, and bird watching are common for visitors seeking a unique experience in the Sonoran Desert. The proposed addition to Woolsey Peak Wilderness provides an interesting mountain ridge access road in the heart of the area.

Geological Significance

In this area, complex geology gives visitors a taste of Precambrian Era deposits mixed with more recent colorful pink and white crystalline outcroppings, red-brown sandstone, blue-green marine sediments, and black volcanic terrain. This diversity of geologic deposits,combined with the rugged nature of the topography, gives Woolsey Peak a dramatic moonscape quality that is fascinating for monument explorers 3 seasons of the year.