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South McCullough Wilderness

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Storm clouds form over the desert speckled with Joshua Trees.
Library image #4082: The McCullough Range often receives summer monsoon rains.


The United States Congress designated the South McCullough Wilderness (map) in 2002 and it now has a total of 43,996 acres. All of this wilderness is located in Nevada and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.


The South McCullough Wilderness encompasses the southern portion of the McCullough Range. This area of the north-south trending range is comprised of ancient metamorphic rock. From a distance, the mountains appear soft, with mellow rounded edges. Upon closer inspection, you will see that the peaks and ridges are rocky and rough, reaching heights over 7,000 feet.

The mountains in the South McCullough Wilderness are comprised of dramatic uplifted fault block of gneiss and granite, with steep slopes, narrow deep canyons to the east and west, and deep sandy washes. There is a wide, deeply cut bajada on the west side of the mountains. The lower slopes are comprised of gently tilted alluvial deposits of unsorted sand, gravel, and cobbles.

Though a short distance from the lights and sounds of Las Vegas, Nevada silence is common in the narrow canyons and sandy washes of South McCullough Wilderness. Infrequent visitor use and the need for route finding skills provide great opportunities for solitude and recreation including hiking, horseback riding, hunting, exploring, and camping.

The mountains are formed of banded and foliated metamorphic rocks, dating back 1.7 million years ago, that have been uplifted and eroded. Bands of quartzite are layered in metamorphic rock, giving the rugged outcrops a striped appearance. The deep north-south oriented canyons were formed by fault activity. The bajada to the west of the range was formed by the convergence of old alluvial deposits left by fast-moving water. In addition to the metamorphic gneiss, granite, and quarzite, igneous lava rocks such as basalt, rhyolite, andesite, and tuffs are also found.

The landscape ranges from approximately 3,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation and displays a thriving Mojave Desert filled with creosote bush, Mojave yucca, banana yucca, buckhorn cholla, catclaw acacia, apache plume, blackbrush and Joshua trees. At the higher elevations, you'll find single-leaf pinyon pine, Utah juniper, various kinds of cholla, prickly pear cactus, hedgehog cactus and California juniper. Desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, antelope ground squirrels, desert woodrats, jackrabbits, desert tortoise, a variety of lizards and snakes, Gambel's quail, chukar, red-tailed hawks, northern flickers, and a variety of sparrows may be glimpsed in this wilderness.

Planning to Visit the South McCullough Wilderness?

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 South McCullough Wilderness.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
For more information on Leave No Trace, Visit the Leave No Trace, Inc. website.

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