Desert showcase: A look at America’s desert wilderness areas

Unbearably hot. Dry. Lifeless. Those are a few terms that the word “desert” all too often conjures up. While deserts are loved by many wilderness enthusiasts, it’s far too easy for the general public to overlook these areas when thinking about wilderness. No doubt, deserts can be hot and dry, but look a little closer and the life within them is amazingly diverse.

Deserts are defined not by temperature, but by their precipitation-less than ten inches precipitation per year. American deserts range from the Sonoran Desert, the only wild place where the famous saguaro cactus grows; the extreme Mojave Desert, which neighbors several major cities; the Chihuahuan Desert on the New Mexico-Mexico border; and the cooler and moister Great Basin Desert, known as one of the best places to view starry night skies.

Known for their delicate ecosystems, deserts are abundant with wildflowers and succulent plants. Some are home to giant saguaros while others give rise to plains of Joshua trees. They thrive with creatures big and small from tarantulas to desert tortoises to bighorn sheep.

Since the historic Wilderness Act was passed in 1964, some 200 desert wilderness areas have been added to our National Wilderness Preservation System. These desert areas enjoy the highest level of land protection afforded by the federal government, meaning they are protected from road building, energy, off-roading and development of any kind.

Here are but a few that you may enjoy…


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