Cedar Mountain

Inventoried Land with Wilderness Character (LWC) in the Battle Mountain BLM30973330156_3539e830c5_z.jpg

Current LWC Status: Proposed

Acres: 28,360

State Region: West Central

County: Esmeralda

Managing Agency

Bureau of Land Management

Battle Mountain District Office

50 Bastian Rd. Battle Mountain, NV 89820

(775) 635-4000

Battle Mountain District BLM Website

Area Description:

The unit is about 30 miles northwest of Tonopah, in the southern end of the Cedar Mountains. 

The core of this unit is comprised by the rugged Cedar Mountains, a convoluted landscape comprised of steep-walled canyons, serpentine drainages, broad washes, and rugged ridges.  Rhyolite exposures create intriguing landscapes of colorful rocks, badlands, and slickrock gardens of colorful formations.  Along the western edge of the unit, the soil becomes sandy and silty, forming a beautiful, bleached playa on Kirby Flat.  Greasewood “islands” characterize the vegetation on and surrounding the playa.  On warm summer days, the heat waves from the playa create a shimmering illusion of water; the mountains and greasewood islands to appear to float on the mirage.  The broad alluvial plain between the playa and the Cedar Mountains supports stands of rice grass, blackbrush, saltbrush, cholla and desert pavements. This unit encompasses 2000 feet of elevation change from 5200 feet on the Kirby Flat Playa to nearly 7200 feet in the highpoint of the range.  Outlaw Springs, immediately to the west of the unit provide dependable water for the wildlife that wanders through this arid unit.  Pronghorn, wild horses and burros frequent this area, bighorn sheep beds can be found on the shoulders of the Cedar Mountains and the occasional migrating mule deer is known to pass through the unit.    Ephedra, ricegrass, rabbit brush and the occasional cliffrose bush can be found within the unit.  Sagebrush only appears in the uppermost sandy valleys of this unit.  Upland game birds and raptors are plentiful as are jack rabbits, reptiles, antelope ground squirrels, and other prey species.  Ravens and golden eagles were identified in the unit.  Cottonwood Canyon in the southeast side of the range has an old, mostly dry spring.  An antique spring box development has partially collapsed and the outflow of the spring is reduced to a difficult-to-reach puddle, available only to song birds and nimble rodents.  The only evidence that water existed in this dry canyon are the occasional dwarfed and gnarled cottonwood trees struggling to live in this narrow, flash-flood prone canyon. 

The playa and alluvial plain leading from Kirby Flat up to the lowest slopes of the rugged mountain core harbor a landscape that quickly swallows-up a visitor on foot and within 15 minutes of walking into this alluvial wilderness, he/she would be completely alone and isolated in the magnitude of the space. On the lowest reaches of the playa, the greasewood islands offer respites from the ever-present sun with tiny patches of shade and cover.  The alluvial channels of both the east and west side of the unit carve fiercely into the rugged volcanic uplands of the unit create a maze of deep and twisting canyons.  This canyons can be challenging for the visitor to follow, but visitors are amply rewarded by the deep sense of solitude and the nearly infinite options to find secluded spots within these networks of canyons.  Many of the drainages within this unit are directed by the complex geology of this unit to twist and turn into long canyons that tend to run in the long, north/south direction of the unit after entering the mountainous core.  This provides several long and secluded valleys within the unit that are completely isolated from the rest of the unit and from the outside world.  The mountainous core of the unit offers extremes in vertical relief that multiply the opportunities for solitude by placing visitors at dramatically different elevations with unique horizons and viewsheds for each elevation.  Atop the highest summits of this range, visitors can find themselves immersed in the deepest solitude surround by the unlimited views of central Nevada natural beauty. Cedar Mountain is truly a remote and isolated place where outstanding opportunities for solitude abound.

This area is not easy to explore, however, nearly every inch of this unit is accessible to the visitor with the determination and skills to traverse trackless wilderness. Birds and wildlife are present as well, providing opportunities for viewing and excellent hunting for skilled backcountry hunters. 

Bighorn sheep and chukar are some of the animals available for game.  The area offers outstanding desert hiking and exploration opportunities, including excellent rock scrambling.  Cottonwood Canyon in the southern part of the unit provides outstanding opportunities for primitive exploration.  This is the only portion of the unit that has cottonwood trees.  As the explorer hikes up the twisting canyons through dark andesitic rocks, the stunted and gnarled cottonwoods indicate that there may be water in the canyon.  A careful observer may discover a small patch of sedges and grass on the side of a turn in the canyon, which indicates the present of a historic spring development. A long-abandoned, stone-built foot-trail leads down to the spring.  A collapsing spring box harbors a tiny pool of water, the only source of water in this portion of the canyon.  As the explorer continues up the canyon past the spring, the canyon cuts through white ash formations, creating a twisting course with several surprising hoodoos and challenging dry waterfalls and scour pools.  Further up the canyon, the tributaries claw away at the adjacent reddish rhyolite formations.  The landscape takes on a “slickrock” appearance.  In the upper reaches, the rhyolite formations appear to be constructed from stacked pillows.  These bare-rock formations in the upper part of this canyon are the reason why the lower reaches of this unit are prone to flash-flooding.  There is little vegetation and virtually no soils to hold the infrequent, but violent downpours.  Several other canyon systems within the unit offer additional unique and challenging areas to explore.  The high cliff walls in the southern part of the range provide nesting areas for raptors and excellent opportunities for bird watching.    Outlaw Springs is the only dependable water in this unit for larger animals and makes a perfect location for watching the game animals that frequent the range.  The colorful rhyolite formations that characterize this area conspire with the sparse vegetation and ever-changing sunlight and shadows to create outstanding opportunities for photography, painting and sketching.   The expansiveness of the unit provides endless vistas of distant mountains and valleys.  This area presents spectacular outstanding vistas at every turn. The highest elevation provide challenging opportunities for rock scrambling and peak bagging.  The area offers outstanding opportunities for arid-lands nature study.  The area is rich in historic and prehistoric archaeological resources for visitors to explore and investigate.  Hiking, orienteering, backpacking, rock hounding, bird watching, primitive camping, horseback riding, burro and llama packing, hunting, and general sightseeing complete the possibilities for outstanding opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation within this unit. 


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