Wilderness Area Status
Designated Wilderness Area
Year Designated: 2002
Act or Law: Clark County Conservation of Public Land and Natural Resources Act of 2002
State Region: Southern Nevada
County Regions: Clark
Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service
Local District: Alan Bible Visitor Center
Contact Info: (702) 293-8990
151 Lakeshore Scenic Drive Las Vegas,
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The El Dorado Wilderness is a land of rugged peaks and ridges cut by wide washes, canyons and narrow drainages. It is located in the El Dorado Mountains, the prominent and scenic ridge that rises between U.S. 95 and the Colorado River. El Dorado refers to a legendary city of gold. This name was likely chosen for this area because of mining activities that once occurred here. The wilderness includes Oak Creek Canyon, Lonesome Wash, and four high spots east of Oak Creek that rise to about 1,200 feet, which is about 500 feet above the Colorado River.
Solitude is a rich commodity in the wilderness, and spectacular views stretch east across the wilderness to the Colorado River and into Arizona. Gregory's Arch, a natural bridge, lies just outside the wilderness' southwest corner.
Scrub oak, creosote, various cacti, ephedra (Mormon Tea), and clump grasses characterize the flora. Two plant species are listed as sensitive: Pentstemon bicolor ssp. bicolor and Penstemon bicolor ssp. roseus. Search for the rosy twotone beardtongue a rare and beautiful flower. The Newberry Mountains contain one of the northernmost populations of desert smoketree which blooms fragrant purple in the spring.
Despite the challenging climate, hundreds of species of reptiles, birds, cacti, plants, mammals and insects make the Colorado River region home from western chuckwalla to the desert iguana, prairie falcon, Costas hummingbird, desert bighorn sheep, banded Gila monster and Townsends big-eared bat.
The protected desert bighorn sheep lives here, along with wild burros (introduced), the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizi- officially threatened according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, since 1990), Gambel's quail, sidewinders, scorpions and tarantulas. Tortoise habitat covers 2,700 acres. Peregrine falcons, osprey and the rare phainopepla live in the river canyons.
The Eldorado Mountains are made up primarily of Precambrian metamorphic rocks with Precambrian intrusions dated at 1.37 billion years old. Atop these old rocks lie Tertiary volcanic rocks of mostly Oligocene and Miocene age (40-20 million years old). These tuffs are very colorful and will please even the most discerning photographer. There are also Tertiary basalt flows of about the same general age as the tuffs.
The entire system lies on the ancient Transcontinental Arch, which can be traced from about Minnesota to the Mojave Desert of California. This arch is all Precambrian, and exposes some of Earth's older rocks. The El Dorado mountains were uplifted during the Miocene Basin & Range Uplift, about 15 million years ago. The northwestern part of the area is a bajada (a wide, gentle slope of gravels that have been washed down from the mountains above. The rest of the area is higher and rugged with narrow drainages, thick vegetative cover and seclusion from the outside world. The landscapes are colorful.
While there are no known rock art, camp or tool sites from ancient cultures in this wilderness, the general area is known to have been occupied for thousands of years, since before the Fremont and Anasazi people. It is conceivable that Aztecs from the south visited this far north, as one of the newer theories of why Anasazi peoples left their elaborate dwellings is that the Aztecs drove them out.
Hiking and camping plus horseback riding and camping are available here. These vast, and in some places extremely rugged, wildlands offer many opportunities to explore the rich natural history of the Colorado River canyon. Massive white granite spires and rounded domes rise over varied Mojave Desert vegetation, deep washes and hidden groves of cottonwood. Discover a secluded spot to camp in Oak Creek Canyon, scramble over the jumbled rock formations of Ireteba Peaks, or explore intricate washes while surrounded by blooming desert wildflowers. Photographers capture the unique geologic features such as tuff formations, basalt flows and a natural bridge. Also picturesque are dense stands of teddy bear cholla haloed in late afternoon light. Boaters can explore miles of rugged cliffs and hidden coves along the Colorado River. Hikers can even take a dip in a remote hot spring nestled in the rocky canyons.
The gentle bajada of the northwestern region allows a wide view. From the highest points in these areas, you can look out over Lake Mojave into Arizona, where Mount Perkins, the Mount Tipton Wilderness and the Wilson Ridge Wilderness grace the horizon.
This wilderness is a component of the Bureau of Land Management's National Conservation Lands.
Wildlife: Desert Smoke Tree, Cholla, Gambel
Cholla cactus in the Eldorado Wilderness (c) Susan Nielsen
Bighorn sheep find safety in the canyons along the Colorado River. (c) Howard Booth