Welcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.
This week we are bringing your attention to the Devil's Den Canyon Wilderness Study Area (WSA). Devil's Den Canyon WSA contains the mouth of a major drainage on the west side of the Guadalupe Escarpment and is a desert environment of shrubs and grasses.
WSAs are places that have wilderness characteristics as defined in the Wilderness Act. An area has wilderness characteristics if it has a minimum size (5,000 acres or manageable as Wilderness), is natural, and has outstanding solitude or primitive recreation. At 320 acres, you may ask how the Devil’s Den Canyon is large enough to qualify as a WSA. One way an area smaller than 5,000 acres is manageable as wilderness is when it is adjacent to other lands managed to protect wilderness. In this case, the Devils Den Canyon WSA is contiguous with the Guadalupe Escarpment WSA, which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). In fact, here, a group of connected Wilderness Areas and WSAs managed by the BLM, USFS, and National Park Service straddle both sides of the New Mexico-Texas Stateline. Two Wilderness Areas and five here make up a 132,000 acre interstate wilderness complex. These include the Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns Wilderness Areas, Guadalupe Escarpment, Lonesome Ridge WSA, Devil's Den Canyon WSA, McKittrick Canyon WSA, and Brokeoff Mountains WSA. In connection with these other units, the little Devil’s Den Canyon WSA is manageable as Wilderness.
We will direct you to a trail beginning on the Guadalupe Escarpment WSA and ending on the Devils Den Canyon WSA. From Highway 137 north of Carlsbad, turn south on Forest Road 540 following it nearly to its end where it intersects Forest Road 3008. Continue onto a short spur, signed 202, which is the trailhead to the Devils Den Trail, #200. Hike trail #200 to its end on a gentle ridge within the WSA. The infrequently maintained Trail drops into a wash and you must be careful to watch for rock cairns marking where it climbs back out of the wash near the mouth of the Canyon on the north side. Since the middle section of the Trail is on the bottom of a wash, avoid hiking here during times of rain. The last few miles of Forest Road 3008 is dirt requiring suitable clearance and may be impassible during rain or snow.
For more information, please visit the Devil’s Den Canyon WSA website.
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