The Chuckwalla - Palen area includes a large portion of the Colorado subdivision of the Sonoran Desert in eastern Riverside County, California. The topography is composed of rugged islands of dissected mountains, sweeping valleys with endless vistas, woodland forests along desert washes, and great expanses of sand. Public land ownership is in large blocks throughout most of the area, supporting a patchwork of human uses (cultural, historical and present day) as well as complex ecological systems.
A significant portion of the area is in congressionally designated wilderness, generally with low acreages of private or state in-holdings. There are two Long-Term Visitor Areas and a developed campground, as well as numerous back-country roads and trails, including the Bradshaw Trail. A large portion of the area is in designated critical habitat for desert tortoise, and the entire area is dotted with important watering and riparian areas for wildlife. Important utility corridors cross the area, linking Arizona with the densely populated areas of southern California; and the small communities of Blythe, Chiriaco Summit and Desert Center are set amidst public lands.
The Chuckwalla-Palen area contains seven CDPA wilderness areas. They include the Big Maria Mountains, Chuckwalla Mountains, Little Chuckwalla Mountains, Orocopia Mountains, Palen-McCoy, Rice Valley and Riverside Mountains Wildernesses.
1. Provide protection and enhancement for biological values, with emphasis on riparian systems, desert tortoise, and describing ecological trends.
2. Identify, maintain, and enhance recreational and long term visitor opportunities.
3. Provide effective management and protection of wilderness areas.
4. Work with Border Patrol and Riverside County to provide safety and security for visitors and facilities, and to discourage illegal uses.
5. Provide for community infrastructure needs to support the people of Southern California, with emphasis on energy transmission and support to the small desert communities.