The Black Rock Desert Wilderness, which contains the eastern arm of the Black Rock Desert, is the largest Wilderness managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Black Rock Desert is the dry lakebed of ancient Lake Lahonton and vegetation in the area consists mainly of saltbush and greasewood. Large portions of the area are unvegetated. Elevations range from 3,900 to 5,931 feet on top of Elephant Mountain. The Wilderness is essentially flat with the only topography occurring at Elephant and Pinto Mountains on the western edge of the area. During years of heavy snowpack the Quinn river flows through the area. The Wilderness also contains important paleological resources along the old lakeshore. Several mammoths and a saber tooth tiger have been excavated from the area. Wildlife in the area include; mule deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, coyotes, and sagegrouse.
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 Black Rock Desert Wilderness.
The Wilderness is located in western Humboldt County. The best access to the Wilderness is located along the BLM and County roads that form the eastern and northern boundaries of the Wilderness.
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.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2001 - Public law 106-554 (12/21/2000) In order to conserve, protect,
and enhance for the benefit and enjoyment of present and
future generations the unique and nationally important historical,
cultural, paleontological, scenic, scientific, biological, educational,
wildlife, riparian, wilderness, endangered species, and recreational
values and resources associated with the Applegate-Lassen and
Nobles Trails corridors and surrounding areas, there is hereby
established the Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant
Trails National Conservation Area in the State of Nevada
Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2002 - Public law 107-63 (11/6/2001) The Black Rock Desert-High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails National
Conservation Area Act of 2000 is amended in sections 4(b) (16
U.S.C. 460ppp–2(b)) and 8(a) (16 U.S.C. 460ppp–6(a)) by striking
‘‘July 19, 2000’’ each place it appears and inserting ‘‘October 3,
While the area is essentially flat, its large size provides for outstanding opportunities for solitude. The Quinn River has been floated during spring runoff through the Wilderness. Floating the river generally requires hiking 7-10 miles with your boat to reach the nearest take-out road.
Climate and Special Equipment Needs
The area has a typical climate of the Great Basin; hot summers with temperatures over 100 degrees F and cold winters with temperatures often below 20 degrees F. Sufficient amounts of water should be carried. Because the area has poor cell phone coverage the only reliable form of communication is by satellite phone. Access roads in the area are very rough and visitors should have high clearance four wheel drive vehicles with extra gas and two spare tires.
Safety and Current Conditions
Current conditions for the area can be found by calling the BLM Winnemucca Field Office at 775-623-1500
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.