National Wildlife Refuge System

Scenic Views of Bitterlake National Wildlife Refuge Scenic Views of Bitterlake National Wildlife Refuge Scenic Views of Bitterlake National Wildlife Refuge Scenic Views of Bitterlake National Wildlife Refuge

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge - Salt Creek Wilderness


About Salt Creek Wilderness


Click on the map to see a better resolution of the Salt Creek map
Salt Creek Wilderness

Salt Creek Wilderness Area is a part of the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). Bitter Lake NWR was established in 1937 to provide wintering habitat for migratory birds. The Refuge plays a crucial role in conservation of wetlands in the desert southwest. Salt Creek Wilderness Area consists of acres of river bottomlands, grasslands, sand dunes, and mixed shrub communities. Salt Creek Wilderness is part of the Salt Creek watershed which empties into the Pecos River in southeastern New Mexico. The Bitter Lake refuge is located near Roswell, NM, immediately west of the Pecos River as shown in green in the map to the right.

The primary reason Salt Creek was established as a wilderness area was to protect the scenic red bluffs on the north side of Salt Creek. Species that use the wilderness include the mallard, widgeon, pintail, and ruddy ducks, geese, bald eagles, snowy egrets, pelicans, and sandhill cranes. In the uplands, roadrunners, scaled quail, ring-necked pheasant, desert cottontails, black-tailed jackrabbits, mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, and badgers are present. Virtually no waterfowl or waterbirds use the wilderness area of Salt Creek because it is devoid of wetlands other than the river and a dozen sinkholes. Two or three of the sinkholes contain rare fish – Pecos gambusia, which is endangered and the Pecos pupfish, a species of concern.


Wilderness Area and Class I Designation

  • In 1970, Congress designated part of Salt Creek as wilderness, declaring that the area should remain undeveloped and "unimpaired" for future generations and has a total of 9,621 acres.
  • In 1977, Congress acknowledged the uniqueness of the Salt Creek Wilderness Area by designating it as a Class I air quality area, affording it special protection under the Clean Air Act.
  • Congress gave the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as the Federal Land Manager of the Salt Creek Wilderness, the responsibility to protect the air quality and natural resources, including visibility, of the area from man-made air pollution. Despite this protection, many sources of man-made air pollution affect Salt Creek NWR including power plants, gas-processing plants, refineries, oil and gas wells, and motor vehicle emissions.
  • The FWS is working cooperatively with industry and the State of New Mexico to reduce air pollution emissions and protect the air quality and Air Quality Related Values (AQRVs) of Salt Creek Wilderness.
  • If the Salt Creek Wilderness Area is not protected, unique wildlife and scenic values will be threatened or may be even lost. The FWS hopes to preserve and protect these special wilderness areas for future generations.


Learn more about the air quality at Salt Creek


Air pollution is monitored by evaluating visibility, atmospheric deposition, and mercury deposition. FWS measures fine airborne particles responsible for visibility impairment in partnership with the Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments (IMPROVE) program. Atmospheric pollutants found in precipitation are analyzed by the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) and mercury in rain is measured by the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN). This website contains the resources to discover why air pollution poses a threat to Salt Creek NWR and what steps the FWS is taking to prevent the deterioration of air quality in this pristine area.

  • Learn the basics of air quality - Air Quality
  • Understand what are the air quality related values - AQRV
  • Learn about how air quality can affect natural and scenic resources - Impacts
  • Find real time monitoring data and studies being performed at the wilderness area - Studies & Monitoring



Addition Information:
Regional Air Quality Information (as provided by NPS)
Salt Creek NWR Website
Salt Creek WA 300km Radius Map (PDF 166KB)

Last updated: November 8, 2012