Wilderness Area Status
Designated Wilderness Area
Year Designated: 2006
Act or Law: White Pine County Conservation, Recreation and Development Act of 2006
State Region: Eastern Nevada
County Regions: White Pine
Bureau of Land Management
Local District: Ely Field Office
Contact Info: (775) 289-1800
702 North Industrial Way HC 33 Box 33500 Ely,
Visit the website
(will open a new window)
From Ely, Heusser Mountain, the heart of the Bristlecone Wilderness, is a prominent landmark, with its triangular south summit rising nearly 3,000 feet in a single sweep from Steptoe Valley. Its main summit, at 9,411 feet, offers a spectacular panorama west across an elevated plateau with perennial streams, aspen, stands of tall conifers, and native bunch grasses. Here, the environment resembles that of the High Schells Wilderness but at a lower elevation. With no evidence of human trespass and virtually no grazing within the wilderness area, its wild characteristics easily match the quality of any other designated wilderness area in Nevada.
It's no surprise that the Heusser Mountain region has drawn attention in the past. In 1965, the BLM designated an area high on the Egan crest as a Research Natural Area to protect "the unique botanical [and ecological] characteristics of irreplaceable scientific and recreational values." (Nevada WSA notebook, 2001). Stands of bristlecone pine thousands of years old are abundant here and constitute a truly rare and intact ecosystem for the Great Basin. In 1979, the BLM determined that 24,600 acres within the Heusser Mountain Bristlecone Pine Natural Area were "completely natural, with no known imprints of man's work." Meanwhile, the 480 acres of bristlecone pine on the Egan crest became an Instant Study Area.
In terms of value to Ely and McGill residents, the Bristlecone Wilderness is a gem. The lush, elevated plateau, seen here from just below the summit of Heusser Mountain, is enclosed by peaks on three sides and has not been disturbed by vehicles. Its waters enter a tight notch and cascade down Rattlesnake Canyon year round. This remoteness blocks all sights, sounds, and imprints of human existence, and now this piece of solitude is formally protected as wilderness.
This is one of the rare and unique places in the northern Egan Range with an abundance of water, wildlife, and outstanding recreational values. With potential wind energy sites further north in the Egans, the proliferation of off-road vehicles, and ongoing development in Ely and Steptoe Valley, the Bristlecone Wilderness will remain timeless - as a backdoor wilderness for everyone here.
This wilderness is a component of the Bureau of Land Management's National Conservation Lands.
Just north of Ely, the Bristlecone Wilderness is home to wildlife habitat and bristlecone pines. (c) Pete Dronkers
The Bristlecone Wilderness is home to high, hidden forests north of Ely, Nevada. (c) Pete Dronkers