Beautiful shot of the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona, which contains more than 487,000 acres of Sonoran Desert landscape. The Sonoran Desert is the most biologically diverse of the North American deserts and includes an the extensive saguaro cactus forest.

The dust from a recent storm front made for interesting backlighting of the rich Sonoran vegetation at the national monument.

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM Wilderness Specialist for the BLM’s National Conservation Lands.

Milky Way near Butterfield Pass in the BLM-managed Sonoran Desert National Monument

This area is probably only 30-40 air miles from Phoenix, and the glow from the city is visible to the north.  However, the overhead stars and southern horizon are dark enough to clearly see the Milky Way, which makes a great backdrop to the charismatic saguaros. 

-Bob Wick, BLM Wilderness Specialist

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Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument Makes Outside Magazine’s “Best Places for Night Sky Viewing”

Check out Outside Magazine’s list of best places for night sky viewing.  The article includes areas designated by the International Dark-Sky Association or IDA to stargaze—especially places absent the yellow haze of light pollution. Arizona’s Parashant International Dark Sky Province is the latest, in 2014, to earn the hat tip from the IDA. The providence includes the pristine, breathtaking skies above 1.05 million acres of land in northwest Arizona at Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument.

A part of the Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands, the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument is a vast, biologically diverse landscape encompassing an array of scientific and historic objects. The BLM and National Park Service jointly manage the Monument, which was established by presidential proclamation in 2000. Valuable geological resources are located within the Monument boundaries, including relatively undeformed and unobscured Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rock layers and abundant fossils,  which offer a clear view of the geologic history of the Colorado Plateau. The Monument also contains outstanding biological resources including giant Mojave yucca, trophy-quality mule deer, California condor, desert tortoise, and southwestern willow flycatcher. 

Visit the BLM’s website to learn more about the area

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM Wilderness Specialist

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Aravaipa Canyon is as close to the perfect hike as I have ever encountered.  It starts out at the trailhead as a scenic trek through  a riparian forest of cottonwoods and willows, then turns spectacular a short time later (understatement) as it enters a 1,000 ft. deep canyon in about a mile in.  While most canyons this dramatic require rope assisted descents or at least some rock scrambling, Aravaipa is… well pretty easy.  Hikers and backpackers must wear water shoes, as you’ll be crossing and wading through the clear stream constantly.  The water temperature was perfect for wading, at least this time of year… the rocks are not slippery, its flat, it just doesn’t get any better! The area would be quickly overwhelmed if the BLM had not instituted a permit system to limit use in the narrow fragile canyon.  The BLM Safford Office issues permits.  More from their website:

The 19,410-acre Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness is 120 miles southeast of Phoenix, Arizona in Graham and Pinal counties.  The wilderness includes the 11-mile long Aravaipa Canyon, as well as, the surrounding tablelands and nine side canyons.  Seven species of native desert fish, desert bighorn sheep, and over 200 species of birds live among shady cottonwoods along the perennial waters of Aravaipa Creek.  Additional information is available on the Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Permits page. 

-Bob Wick, BLM Wilderness Specialist

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HAPPY EARTH DAY 2014!

In celebration of Earth Day 2014, the Bureau of Land Management is introducing three vintage posters and postcards depicting some of the spectacular landscapes of our National Conservation Lands. As a part of a continuing series, the purpose of the campaign is to highlight these ruggedly beautiful and culturally rich places that belong to all Americans. 

The inaugural posters and postcards artistically portray three different areas, illustrating the diversity of the landscapes protected under the system. They are Eagletail Mountains Wilderness Area in Arizona, Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in Montana and Headwaters Forest Reserve in California.  

There are now nearly 900 designated areas of National Conservation Lands spanning almost 27 million acres – or 11 percent of the lands managed by BLM. They include national monuments, national conservation areas, wilderness and wilderness study areas, national wild and scenic rivers, national scenic trails and national historic trails. 

Learn more about your National Conservation Lands: http://on.doi.gov/19NBFQl

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Nature’s Mashup-Monsoon Rains

The rain came hard and fast. The sudden deluge drenched the desert and flooded the once-tame creek with an impressive mass of churning sludge and brush. The air was filled with nature’s richest aromas. The scent of a flash flood; nature’s “mash up”, blends the smell of pulverized sage and creosote, soil and sediment, with the sweet aroma of rain. Watching the desert transform by flood waters can be exciting—and foreboding—depending upon where you stand when the flood waters recede.

Storms can leave side canyons and delicate riparian zones completely unrecognizable; scouring canyons clean of even the toughest, most deeply rooted tamarisks and shrubs. Log jams some 50 feet above the canyon floor attest to the sheer volume floods deliver—especially when channeled down narrow slot canyons like Paria Canyon in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness.

This time of year, public land managers and staff have the insurmountable task of providing enough information for the public to make good, sound decisions when recreating on public lands. But one thing is crystal clear; no matter how awe-inspiring a feature or landscape may be no adventure into a natural area is worth the risk of injury or death.

When venturing out in the desert southwest between mid-July and the first of October be sure to check with the specific land management unit you plan to visit and the National Weather Service and refer to their web pages often for the most current updates and forecasts prior to departure. Leave a detailed emergency contact list and itinerary with loved ones which significantly decreases the time it takes for search and rescue efforts to reach hikers if needed. The best approach to backcountry safety however, is to take personal responsibility for your own safety and ensure every ounce of prevention is taken when planning ahead. It can mean the difference between an enjoyable and memorable trip and a disastrous one.

For more information on hiking slot canyons during monsoon season go to: http://on.doi.gov/1pcAbWg

For updates on regional river flows in Northwestern Arizona such as the Paria River go to: http://on.doi.gov/1wNHWMj

For minute by minute weather updates and forecasts go to: http://www.weather.gov/

-Story by BLMer Rachel Tueller and photos by Stephen Matera 

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