This Wilderness area consists of bajadas; extensive flat aprons of alluvium; and the massive, fault-lifted Old Woman Mountains that extend some 35 miles north-south and up to 28 miles in an east-west direction. The elevations within the Wilderness extend from 800 feet in the drainage bottoms to over 5,300 feet at the top Old Woman Peak. The mountains take their name from a granite monolith resembling the figure of an old woman, known as the Old Woman Statue (5,000 feet high). The Old Woman Mountains were the discovery site of the Old Woman Meteorite. This meteorite was discovered in 1975 and is the largest meteorite found in California and the second largest in the United States. The meteorite was on display at the Smithsonian Institute from 1978 to 1980 and is now on permanent display at the Desert Information Center in Barstow, California. The Old Woman Mountains Wilderness falls within a transition zone between the Lower Colorado and Mojave deserts and encompasses many different habitat types. Creosote bush scrub dominates the lower elevations, grading into mixed desert scrub at middle elevations with juniper-pinyon woodland at the higher elevations. The dry washes are characterized by catclaw acacia, cheesebush, desert lavender, little-leaf ratany, and desert almond. Wildlife is typical for the Mojave Desert; including a permanent population of bighorn sheep, mule deer, bobcat, cougar, coyote, black-tailed jackrabbit, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, quail, chuckar, roadrunners, rattlesnakes, and several species of lizards. Numerous raptor species are likely to be found in the area; including prairie falcons, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, Cooper's hawks, American kestrels, as well as several speices of owls. The washes and canyons provide good habitat for several species of songbirds, and the bird densities and diversity is further enhanced by the presence of the known 24 springs and seeps. The bajadas provide excellent desert tortoise habitat; nearly a third of the Wilderness area have been identified as critical habitat for the threatened desert tortoise.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Old Woman Mountains Wilderness.
Old Woman Mountains Wilderness is located in San Bernardino County, California approximately 35 miles west of Needles, California. The northern boundary of the wilderness is approximately 9 miles south of historic Route 66. Maps of the area can be obtained from the Bureau of Land Management Field Office in Needles, California.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
California Desert Protection Act of 1994 - Public Law 103-433 (10/31/1994) "California Desert Protection Act of 1994" An Act to designate certain lands in the California Desert as wilderness, to establish the Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, to establish the Mojave National Preserve, and for other purposes.
Hiking, horseback riding, hunting, camping, rock hounding, photography, and backpacking are examples of activities that can be enjoyed in this wilderness. The wilderness boundary was drawn to exclude five non-wilderness corridors or 'cherrystems', which provide vehicle access to the interior of the wilderness area.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
Temperatures are fairly mild in the early spring, late fall, and winter; generally 30-80 F. Summer temperatures are extremely hot. Temperatures are commonly over 115 F and can get well over 120 F. Always carry water; desert springs are not reliable water sources.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.