It’s International Dark Sky Week 2015!

The Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument in Arizona, jointly managed by the BLM’s National Conservation Lands and National Park Service, is a vast remote landscape where the only nighttime light comes from the stars. The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) recognized the unspoiled quality of its pristine and breathtaking night skies with an official IDA designation as “Parashant International Night Sky Province,” joining an elite group of other international Night Sky Places around the globe.

Enjoy the starry skies over the Grand Canyon Parashant along with other BLM lands that, while not official IDA sites, offer stunning views of the Milky Way. #SeeBLM #findyourpark

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM


Located on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is a geologic treasure. This remote and unspoiled monument contains 280,000 acres of diverse landscapes – including the colorful swirling stone of the Wave (shown here) – making it an international hiking destination. For those who don’t get a permit to the Wave, White Pocket in Vermilion Cliffs has similar geologic features and is worth the visit!

New photos by Bob Wick, BLM


On this day, President Bush signed the Arizona Desert Wilderness Act of 1990 into law, which established 38 new wilderness areas and expanded the Aravaipa Canyon wilderness.  The bill also established the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area featured here.

The 23,000-acre Gila Box Riparian NCA is truly an oasis in the desert. It has four perennial waterways - the Gila and San Francisco rivers and Bonita and Eagle creeks, which are the lifeline for this remarkable place. The Gila River canyon section, known as the Gila Box, is composed of patchy mesquite woodlands, mature cottonwoods, sandy beaches, and buff-colored cliffs. Bonita Creek, popular for birdwatching, hiking, and picnicking, is lined with large cottonwoods, sycamores, and willows. The perennial creek and riparian vegetation make this a cool year-round desert oasis.

Cliff dwellings, historic homesteads, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and over 200 species of birds make this year-round watery desert refuge worth the short drive from Safford, Arizona.

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM 


Thanks to @cynrk for the note about Arizona’s birthday!

While younger than Oregon (statehood in 1912), equally amazing in very different ways.  Our post highlights some of the most interesting things about BLM Arizona public lands - petroglyphs, unique wildlife, cool cactus and other plants, out-of-this world geologic formations and so much more.  A lot to love about Arizona on Valentine’s Day.

Photos by BLMer Bob Wick

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.


BLM Winter Bucket List #25: Agua Fria National Monument, Arizona, for a Natural and Historic Getaway near Superbowl 49

The 70,900-acre Agua Fria National Monument, a part of the BLM’s National Conservation Lands, is approximately 40 miles north of Phoenix, just a short drive from Superbowl 49 central next week.

The area is located on a high mesa semi-desert grassland, cut by the canyon of the Agua Fria River and other ribbons of valuable riparian forest. The diversity of vegetative communities, topographic features, and a dormant volcano decorates the landscape with a big rocky, basaltic plateau. The Agua Fria River canyon cuts through this plateau exposing precambrian rock along the canyon walls, offering one of the most significant systems of prehistoric sites in the American Southwest. In addition to the rich record of human history, the monument contains outstanding wildlife and biological resources.

This habitat provides visitors with a wide variety of activities within the monument, from exploring cultural sites to viewing wildlife to hiking scenic trails.  The monument is a great natural and historic getaway less than an hour from the city. 

CLICK HERE to learn more and plan a visit.  

Photos by BLMer Bob Wick


Driving into the remote east end of Aravaipa Canyon feels like travelling into a giant funnel.  

Pinched by looming mountains on every side – the Santa Teresas, Galiuros, and Pinalenos – it’s hard not to wonder where the dry meandering wash that is Aravaipa Creek can go.   It seems that after flowing underground for two dozen miles, the creek has worked itself into a dead end.

But then tan, sculpted bluffs on either side of the wash begin to rise.  Vibrant green cottonwood leaves come into view.  You realize the creek is going through the mountains, and Aravaipa Canyon must be right around the corner.

This was my first visit and it came with high expectations.  I’d heard plenty about the incredible 19,410-acre Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness – the most pristine riparian area in Arizona; a crystal-clear perennial creek flanked by tall saguaro; teeming with rare fish and bighorn sheep.  The BLM even puts “world famous” on our webpage.  It’s a lot for a place to live up to.

Of course it delivered.  The tranquility and beauty of the place is apparent immediately, a unique blend of lush canyon bottom and Sonoran Desert canyon rims. Many feel the same way - nearly 5,000 visitors lined up for BLM wilderness permits last year for chance to head down the same road and discover Aravaipa.   I can only hope (with a good dose of confidence) that each first-timer will be blown away the same way I was.

By Adam Milnor, BLM Arizona


This weekend marks the anniversary of the Arizona Wilderness Act of 1984. Among other actions, the act added the BLM’s Aravaipa Canyon, Beaver Dam Mountains, Cottonwood Point, Grand Wash Cliffs, Kanab Creek, Mount Logan and Mount Trumbull, Paiute and Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs to the National Wilderness System.

CLICK HERE to plan a visit and learn more about the BLM’s ruggedly beautiful wilderness areas, a part of our National Conservation Lands.


Product testing, black bear-style…

Dale Maas, a recent visitor to BLM’s beautiful Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona, watched this black bear try - in Dale’s words - to “circumvent the design” of a trash can in one of the picnic areas.

The bear wasn’t successful, but it’s a great reminder as Memorial Day rolls around that using designated trash cans not only keeps our public lands clean but also protects wildlife!

All photos courtesy of Dale Maas; story submitted by BLMer Adam Milnor


View colorful sunsets and dark night skies at the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument with #mypubliclandsroadtrip

Jointly managed the BLM and the National Park Service, the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument near the Arizona-Utah border covers more than a million acres of deep canyons, mountains and buttes. The monument is best known for colorful vistas and its dark night sky designation.    

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM


In a new photographic series exploring America’s natural beauty, is choosing and highlighting seven spectacular wonders from each state. The recent America the Beautiful: 7 Wonders of Arizona features the BLM-managed Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, with several beautiful photos taken by our own Bob Wick (pictured here)!

Located on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona, Vermillion Cliffs includes the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. This remote and unspoiled, 280,000-acre Monument is a geologic treasure, containing a variety of diverse landscapes from the Paria Plateau, Vermilion Cliffs, Coyote Buttes, and Paria Canyon. 

Visitors enjoy scenic views of towering cliffs and deep canyons. Paria Canyon offers an outstanding three to five day wilderness backpacking experience. The colorful swirls of cross-bedded sandstone in Coyote Buttes are an international hiking destination. The BLM admits only 20 people a day to the monument’s best known attraction - the Wave - to preserve this unique formation.  

CLICK HERE to learn more about Vermillion Cliffs and the BLM’s National Conservation Lands.


Aravaipa Creek flows year-round, an unusual phenomenon in the Arizona desert. Forced to the surface as it squeezes through a tight canyon in the Galiuro Mountains, Aravaipa Creek supports a thriving riparian ecosystem complete with rare native fish, bighorn sheep, javelina and colorful migratory birds. The nine major side canyons will mark your course, with additional caves, outcrops, chimneys and “windows” along the way. Strong or destination hikers can traverse from end to end in 8 to 10 hours, while nature watchers, photographers and those wanting to explore side canyons may take one or two overnights and never see it all. 

CLICK HERE to learn more about this #mypubliclandsroadtrip.

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM; video by Jason Barangan, BLM

Kicking off the holiday weekend with a moonlight shot of the petroglyphs at Agua Fria National Monument near Phoenix, Arizona.

The Agua Fria National Monument contains one of the most significant systems of late prehistoric sites in the American Southwest. Managed by the BLM’s National Conservation Lands, the Monument includes approximately 71,000 acres and at least 450 prehistoric sites.   

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM

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


On this day in 2001, the Carrizo Plain, Sonoran Desert, Pompeys Pillar, Upper Missouri River Breaks, and Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monuments were established by Presidential Proclamation. 

CLICK HERE to learn more about the national monuments managed by the BLM’s National Conservation Lands.

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM


BLM Winter Bucket List #10: Ironwood Forest National Monument, Arizona, for Mild Temperatures and Winter Photography

Taking its name from one of the longest living trees in the Arizona desert, the Ironwood Forest National Monument protects 129,000 acres of spectacular Sonoran Desert mountains blanketed with saguaro cacti and ironwood trees. The winter light on the photogenic peaks - plus an average January high temperature of 65 degrees F - make the Ironwood an appealing wintertime public lands destination.

Ragged Top Mountain is the biological and geological crown jewel of the national monument. Several endangered and threatened species live here, including the Nichols turk’s head cactus and the lesser long-nosed bat. The national monument also contains habitat for the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl. The desert bighorn sheep dwelling in the region are the last viable population indigenous to the Tucson basin. The area holds abundant rock art sites and other archaeological objects of scientific interest.

Learn more about Ironwood Forest NM:

Photos by Bob Wick, BLM


Ending today’s #mypubliclandsroadtrip in BLM Arizona with a the history and habitat of the Agua Fria National Monument

Just 45 minutes north of Phoenix, the Agua Fria National Monument includes an abundance of wildlife as well as geological and archaeological wonders. The monument’s water resources include the Agua Fria River and streams, creeks and pools that  provide habitat for fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and larger wildlife species like deer, pronghorn, javelina and mountain lions.  To date, 194 species of bird have been recorded.

The monument also contains more than 450 recorded archaeological sites, spanning some 2,000 years of human history.  From the Pueblo La Plata site to the rock art located at the confluence of the Badger Springs Trail, visitors are encouraged to explore these sites but to help preserve them by not removing, defacing, collecting or further damaging any of the artifacts, structures or rocks.  Given the unique features of the monument, it offers excellent recreation opportunities, from hiking to camping to photography.  

Story by Michael Abalos, BLM Arizona; click photos for photographer credit


Your daily dose of cuteness this #wildlifewednesday from Las Cienegas National Conservation Area in Southeastern Arizona.

These little “ecosystem engineers” provide burrows for other species and excavate nutrient rich soil that, in turn, provides rich vegetation for grazers. Since 2008, Arizona Game and Fish Department and partners have translocated approximately 400 Black Tailed Prairie Dogs to four sites at Las Cienegas NCA to improve grassland health and increase species diversity within their historical range. (Source: University of Arizona Website)

New photos by Bob Wick, BLM.


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