Jarbidge Wilderness

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Map Information

Wilderness Area Statusphoto_jarbidge_lupines1_ssmith_400.jpg

Designated Wilderness Area
Year Designated: 1964

Act or Law: Wilderness Act of 1964
Acres: 64667 / 113167*
State Region: Northeast Nevada
County Regions: Elko   


Managing Agency: Forest Service
Local District: Jarbidge Ranger District
Contact Info: (775) 752-3357
PO Box 246  Wells, NV89835
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Area Description

The Jarbidge Wilderness is 113,167 acres of high mountains and deep glaciated canyons located in northeastern Elko County. It has eight peaks over 10,000 feet, some of which drop to canyons 4,000 feet below. These mountains form a single crest and maintain elevations between 9,800 and 11,000 feet for about seven miles. Eight peaks exceed the 10,000 foot mark.

It was the first designated wilderness area in Nevada. The name Jarbidge translates from the Shoshone to mean "monster that lurks in the canyon" or "weird beastly creature." According to legend, the Shoshone braves chased this creature into a cave in the present Jarbidge Canyon and blocked it inside with rocks and boulders.

Hidden from any major highway, the Jarbidge Mountain crest appears as a miniature Alp to those who drive the back roads to the wilderness. No trails lead to the peaks, but many hikers have made the 10,565 ft. climb up Mary's River to sign its register.

Extreme variations in elevation, moisture, and soil make it an area of beauty. Bright and varied colors of vegetation, soil and rock complement its spectacular topography and remoteness. It features low-elevation, shrub-dominated alpine ecosystems as well as some of Nevada's finest deer habitat. Scenic vistas range from sagebrush flatland to high, rugged, rocky peaks.

Nevada is an arid state, but the Jarbidge Wilderness is unusually wet. On average, it receives seven to eight feet of snow annually. Cottonwood trees are predominant along the streams at low elevations. There are numerous intermittent streams, seeps and small meadows. It is a high water producing area that produces a spectacular wildflower show in early summer.

The range also includes two small basins, Jarbidge Lake and Emerald Lake. From the heights, visitors can hike or horseback ride along ridge tops for miles down West Mary's River, Mary's River, East Fork Jarbidge or any other of a number of streams, creeks and rivers.

One unique feature is that this wilderness contains a Class 1 Airshed. That means it possesses one of the last few remnants of pristine air in the nation. The air quality is monitored daily with an air camera and a particulate sampler.

Access to this area is limited and requires at least three hours of driving over rough gravel roads.
Driving time from Las Vegas: 12 hours
Driving time from Reno: 11 hours.
Nearest supply point: Wells.

Once there, however, about 150 miles of trails carry visitors into the backcountry. Trailheads are located at Snowslide Gulch, Slide Creek and Three Day Creek. The lower elevation tyrails open up in May and the upper trails are clear in June or July, depending on the snowpack. Busy times are holiday weekends and hunting season at October's end.

Currently Camp Draw is the only wilderness trailhead. Get there by taking county road 746 to Charleston Reservoir, then county road 748 to the trailhead sign. Both county roads are gravel, with narrow winding switchbacks. A passenger car can make it with careful driving. Facilities at Camp Draw include hitching racks, loading ramp, vault toilet and info center. Parking is limited to about 10 vehicles. Access is also available by following the road past the old 76 creek administration site to its end. A flat area there will park up to 20 vehicles. The turnoff is located about 2.5 miles before Camp Draw turnoff.

* When originally designated in 1964, the Jarbidge Wilderness covered 64,667 acres. The Nevada Wilderness Protection Act of 1989, by adding another 48,500 acres, brought the wilderness up to its present size of 113,167 acres.

Wildlife: Turkey Vulture, Bull Trout, Redband, Preble's Shrew, Black Bear, Northern River Otter, Calliope Hummingbird, Tree Swallow, Painted Lady, Spotted Bat, Greater Short-horned Lizard, Yellow-bellied Marmot, Red Crossbill