The White Mountains Wilderness was designated through the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009. The wilderness contains Cottonwood Creek, which was designated a Wild and Scenic River at the same time as the wilderness designation. The White Mountains are one of the largest and highest desert mountain ranges in North America. The range rises abruptly from the Owens and Chalfant Valleys along its western escarpment, with several peaks along the crest exceeding 13,000 feet in elevation. White Mountain, at 14,246 ft., is the highest peak in the Great Basin. Much of the crest is comprised of plateaus, which contain the largest expanse of rare alpine tundra in the far western United States. The eastern flanks contain a number of steep drainages, their landforms affected by past periods of glaciation. Among the drainages is Cottonwood Creek, the only stream in the Great Basin protected from its alpine source to its desert terminus. The variety of steep terrain, rolling plateaus, and deep canyons makes for excellent habitat for desert bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope and mule deer. The cold and dry climate, combined with abrupt elevation changes, make this wilderness a rare and fragile place. More than 1,000 native species and varieties of plants reside here in plant communities that range from desert scrub to alpine. The northern portion of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest - the earth's oldest living trees - is also within the wilderness. In this harsh environment, recovery from disturbance of plants or soils is slow, perhaps more than 100 years. Visitors to this wilderness should diligently practice Leave No Trace ethics. The White Mountains offer superb scenery and solitude in a challenging setting of deep canyons and harsh, windy plateaus. The White Mountain Road provides access to the high elevation country near the south end of the wilderness. A number of the drainages along the east side of the mountains have 4WD roads which end at the wilderness boundary. In the Cottonwood Creek, Leidy Creek and Indian Creek drainages, non-maintained trails extend into the wilderness beyond the end of the road.
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 White Mountains 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.
Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 - Public law 111-11 (3/30/2009) An act to designate certain land as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System, to authorize certain programs and activities in the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture, and for other purposes.