Located in Southwest Arizona, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge was originally established in 1939 as a Game Range for the conservation and development of natural wildlife resources. The name Cabeza Prieta (in Spanish meaning “dark head”) refers to the distinctive lava-topped, granite peak in the western portion of the refuge. In March of 1975, Cabeza Prieta Game Range was re-established as Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and became part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Encompassing 860,010 acres, the Refuge provides valuable habitat for Sonoran Desert wildlife. In 1990, the passage of the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act designated 803,418 acres (93 percent) of the Refuge as wilderness. As a wilderness, vehicles and other modern conveniences are only allowed on the refuge's limited road system, with most of the refuge preserved for visitors wanting a more natural experience.
The mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management and, where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.
Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do, from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use.
1848 – Arizona becomes part of the United States after they win the Mexican American War. More settlers start moving into Arizona Territory. Mining and ranching are the some of the prominent industries in the region.
January 25, 1939 – The range is established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as Cabeza Prieta Game Range by Executive Order 8038.
March 21, 1975 – Establishment of Cabeza Prieta as a National Wildlife Refuge, now part of the greater National Wildlife Refuge System under sole jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
November 28, 1990 – Arizona Desert Wilderness Act designates 93 percent of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness.