“An area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” - Wilderness Act of 1964
Refuge staff commonly get asked what "Wilderness" really means, and what visitors are allowed to do within a .
Refuge staff commonly get asked what "Wilderness" really means, and what visitors are allowed to do within a wilderness area .
The benefits of wilderness are many and varied, its value being recognized both directly and indirectly. Being here, in the vast open space, camping, hiking, engaging with the surroundings first-hand, is direct, experiential wilderness. In 1990, the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act established over 800,000 acres of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge as designated wilderness.
One quality of wilderness is an area offering “outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive and unconfined type of recreation.” Your thoughtful interaction with this resource is essential to allowing us to fulfill a fantastic goal of The Wilderness Act - to administer “the use and enjoyment of the American people in such a manner as will leave them for future use and enjoyment as wilderness.”
Besides the recreational benefits of wilderness, it also benefits our environment protecting it and the life within; creates opportunities for education in science and geology; it provides rich knowledge of history and culture, past and present; and provides raw, awe-inspiring scenery virtually free from human contact. Whatever experiences you have on your journey throughout the Refuge, we hope these memories stay with you to remind you that wilderness is valuable and wilderness matters.
Recreating in wilderness comes with its own challenges. Visitors must come prepared to face the landscape alone, sometimes with only what they can carry on their back. When visiting the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, be prepared for anything. Temperatures can dip into the 30’s in winter, and over 110 in the summer. No mechanical devices are allowed in wilderness, meaning no cars, bikes, chainsaws, or drills. The Cabeza Prieta NWR does have roads that cut through the wilderness area but are not connected to it. Also, roads are for high clearance vehicles only, and there is no gas or supplies in the refuge. Make sure to bring enough food and water for an extended trip if problems arise.
Wilderness allows for unlimited pedestrian recreation. Once a visitor passes the wilderness boundary, it is up to them where to head next. Maybe to a wash, a mountain top, or playa. Backpackers enjoy the pristine Sonoran Desert during the day, and dark skies at night.
Next time you think of a visit to nature, think of a wilderness area. They transport you back to a time before human impact and show the true view of nature. Before visiting the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness, take a look at our website, call, or visit our Visitor Center so you are prepared for your trip!