Managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office, Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness comprises over 112,326 acres of land around the arid and rugged terrains of the Mojave and Colorado deserts. Chuckwalla Mountains are vivid and soaring in their appearance, and rise like an island in a sea of desert and washed-out sand. In fact, the mountains appear like nature’s very own rock fortress, with its textured and coarse landforms and enchanting colors.
Surrounding the mountains are steep-walled canyons, washes of all forms and sizes, and broad valleys, making the mountains appear even more regal. Like its geographical layout, the wildlife and plant-life of Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness are astonishingly diverse. The history isn’t lacking either, as it is believed that the north side of the Chuckwalla Range was home to at least one Native American Tribe.
Another famous feature of this wilderness is the large and gently sloping bajada, scored by a network of washes in the desert. In the north of the wilderness, one of the bajadas escalates gradually to nearly 400 feet. The bajada in the south of the wilderness is more than just a cool sight. It has been identified as crucial habitat for threatened species of desert tortoises. The unique natural topography of the wilderness encourages explorers to camp nearby for several days so that they can hike and explore as much of the wilderness as humanly possible.
If you wish to access Black Butte−the highest peak of the range−than the best route would be the Bradshaw Trail. This trail is a dirt road on the south side of the Chuckwalla Mountains. It can be reached via Intersection 10. Be sure to check the weather when planning your trip. If you end up driving right after a storm, then the dirt roads transform into deep mud and driving becomes difficult.
The wilderness boasts a BLM campground where explorers and hikers can camp for up to 14 days. After 14 days, you can still camp but you’ll need to relocate your camp at least 25 miles away from your original campsite.
The campground is completely primitive, without any amenities. It is advised to choose previously used campsites instead of new ones to reduce the impact on the environment. Pets are welcome in the wilderness and can accompany their owners everywhere as long as they are well-behaved and under the full control of their owners.
Corn Springs Campground is also a BLM property and located just 45 minutes from the wilderness. The campground houses nine sites suitable for RV and tent. The campground comes with picnic tables, grills, water, and toilets.
This campground is located deep in the canyon of the Chuckwalla Mountains, right next to a stand of fan palms. It is a crucial stopover for migratory birds, so be prepared to catch sight of plenty of species of birds. Prehistoric Native American Indian groups also occupied corn Springs, and their petroglyphs and rock art can be found all over the place.
Chuckwalla is an ecologically diverse landscape, hence the habitat it provides is just as varied and provides a home to numerous wildlife. Since this wilderness has the physical traits of both the Mojave and Colorado desert, the wildlife here is also a mix of both.
During your days of exploring the wilderness, be prepared to encounter herds of bighorn sheep, wild burros, deer, coyotes, snakes, foxes, and the famous desert tortoises in the bajada region in the southwest corners of the wilderness.
Just like the wildlife of the Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness, the birds of the regions are just as diverse. Birdwatchers can choose a spot and enjoy catching sights of a red-tailed hawk, mourning dove, rock wren, Pacific-slope flycatcher, Hammond’s flycatcher, black-throated sparrow, phainopepla, and blue-gray gnatcatchers to name a few.
Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness provides two trails for the adventurers who love off-road driving. The wilderness also permits mountain biking in designated trails shared with motorized vehicles.
The first trail begins at Red Cloud Canyon and goes all the way to the Red Cloud Mine. The 19-miles long trail features beautiful wildflowers and is rated as moderate. Corn Springs Roads is the second OHV trail that is 29.7 miles long and offers scenic views of the wilderness. This one is suitable for all skill levels.
It goes without saying that this desert wilderness offers views to remember, and what better way to remember them than through pictures captured in timeless frames?
Mountain ranges made of Precambrian granite, deep washes, rocky outcroppings, and the bajada surroundings gives photographers plenty to shoot. The combination of this rugged landscape with the flora of the region really gives the photographs an x-factor. The rich woodland of ironwood, smoke trees, Barrel cactus, California snakeweed, and Alverson’s foxtail are some of the flora that is only found here.
Black Butte is the highest peak on the Chuckwalla Range and has over 2000 feet of prominence. Black Butte is known throughout California as a wilderness highpoint. Most rock climbers in the wilderness aim for this peak as it takes them through the complex configuration of ridges and proves a challenge.
Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness is one of the favorite places among amateur rockhounds. They frequent the area to collect large geodes filled with bubbly chalcedony, petrified bark and wood, nodules, quartz crystals, perlite, and black agate. The bizarre rock formations of various shapes and sizes are simply stunning to look at and whether you a geologist or not, appreciating these natural wonders is just a given.