Inventoried Land with Wilderness Character (LWC) in the Battle Mountain BLM District
Current LWC Status: Proposed
State Region: West Central
Bureau of Land Management
Battle Mountain District Office
50 Bastian Rd. Battle Mountain, NV 89820
This very remote location is located in northeastern Humboldt County, along with a small portion of the northeastern corner of the complex existing in northwestern Elko County. The area is approximately 5 miles east of the base of the Calico Mountains (Santa Rosa Range).
The Willow Creek Area is largely flat with subtle rolling and wide open plains displaying a sea of low sagebrush and accompanied by dry creeks and shallow washes. The area lies in the southernmost portion of the Colombia Plateau, just outside the northern edge of the Great Basin. Occurring covertly within the flats of the area are canyons which provide and direct drainage of water eastward, eventually flowing to the nearby Owyhee River. These canyons possess volcanic rock walls and cliffs, ranging from deep to shallow in depth, carving out and extending through the massive plateau terrain. These canyons provide important riparian habitat, as well as a refuge for an abundance of native wildlife. Many species of birds including a myriad of raptors utilize these rocky cliffs to nest and brood. Pronghorn antelope thrive above the canyons by resorting to the extensive and open range of travel corridors. Occurring throughout the area are healthy populations of low sage and native bunch grasses. High sage, Great Basin Wildrye, Indian paintbrush, rabbitbrush and snowberry all exist within the refuge of the canyon. Access within the area by vehicle is extremely limited and other than a seasonal corral on the western border, human infrastructure is non-existent. Hiking, camping, wildlife viewing and photography are some of the major human activities.
From the initial glance of the area on a map, I am skeptical of the mostly flat and “featureless” topography. As we reach the area in person, I can’t help but notice the seemingly unending sea of sagebrush atop the subtle hills on which it inhabits. These hills extend for miles in every direction and produce an enormous amount of open land and space that surrounds me. This immense expanse of space between me and the nearest ‘significant’ topographical feature creates a significance in and of itself. It provides insulation full of void, and establishes a ‘topographic screening’ by the sheer volume of ‘nothingness’ of the area. From this effect alone, I can sense the land declaring its wildness. A look in any direction gives me no sign of human presence. I am a miniscule fraction within the substantial equation of this place. As I venture into Willow Creek canyon in the NW portion of the complex, I am pleasantly surprised by a completely new experience of solitude. This is created from volcanic and rocky cliff walls that provide a fresh and unmistakable form of topographic screening. I am suddenly immersed in this abyss which forms and supports its own unique ecosystem. My first recognition is of the multiple types of plant life that thrive within this habitat. Around the first bend, I am excited to be treated to a rare sighting of a red fox. This place must be remote and untrammeled if it can furnish a refuge for such a rare and elusive creature in the dead of day, I quietly think to myself. As I continue veering deeper into the allure of the canyon, a myriad of animal tracks and scat remind me that I am merely a visitor in this isolated and harsh environment which countless creatures call home. Hours have passed and I still find myself being drawn by the captivating and exquisite geology hiding behind every twist and turn of the canyon. This place is begging me to be swallowed up with fascination and to continue swimming within its sea of solitude.
Plentiful are the outstanding opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation within the Willow Creek Area. Armed with map and compass, the determined hiker or backpacker is offered copious amounts of land to traverse and navigate. The rugged and wide open terrain provides ample opportunities for the experienced equestrian to explore this area’s reaches. The untouched state of this land furnishes many options for the primitive camper as well. The generous arrays of awe-inspiring landscapes appear to exuberantly encourage their well-deserved documentation by photographers of all skill levels. Wildlife viewing is also an option, challenging the visitor to spot and identify the diverse variety of animals that call this environment home. Native populations of Pronghorn antelope and chukar bird provide an avid challenge for hunting. Sterile of any artificial light, the enormous and unblemished night sky invites the star gazer to enjoy its comprehensive light show of astronomical proportions.