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Wichita Mountains Wilderness

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Area Management

The Wichita Mountains Wilderness is part of the 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Wichita Mountains Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

The 8,570-acre Wichita Mountains Wilderness Area, which was designated by Congress through Public Law 91-504 on October 23, 1970, consists of two units: the Charons Garden Unit (5,723 acres) and the North Mountain Unit (2,847 acres).

The North Mountain unit lies in the north-central part of the Refuge and is located in the Special Use Area where public access is very restricted. This wilderness unit is also managed as a Research Natural Area, with access and use limited mostly to scientific and educational purposes. Public access is very limited, only to intensively managed elk and deer hunts.

The Charons Garden unit is located within the Public Use Area of the Refuge and open to many public uses, including hiking, wildlife observation, photography, and rock sports. In addition, a limited number of backcountry camping permits are available for overnight visits into the wilderness area. Except for the permitted camping, public use of this wilderness unit is limited to daylight hours. The Refuge also allows for a small amount of guided interpretive and organized environmental education hikes with a Leave No Trace message or theme. Two designated trails totaling about 3.5 miles are maintained by hand within the Charons Garden Wilderness. There are also some nondesignated and unmaintained trails the area.

The ruggedness of the weathered granite mountainous terrain in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area provides an experience of solitude, naturalness, and wildness, but attracts heavy public use that erodes those wilderness qualities. Group sizes are limited to alleviate the heavy use impacts. Temporary access restrictions are occasionally used to protect sensitive sites or resources from disturbance. In addition, temporary closures may implemented during periods of extreme heat and drought for public safety.

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