The United States Congress designated the Old Woman Mountains Wilderness (map
) in 1994 and it now has a total of 165,172 acres
All of this wilderness is located in California
and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
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.