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Florida Mountains WSA

Welcome to Wilderness Wednesday, our weekly posting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.  

The Florida Mountains Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is our highlight this week.  The Florida Mountains are a small desert range rising abruptly from the surrounding land with numerous high rugged rocky pinnacles and peaks.  The range forms a striking skyline from a distance, and a formidable collection of scenic spires up close.  Silver was discovered in these mountains in the late 1800s and the remnants of past mining activities, which closed with the depletion of the most concentrated mineral deposits, are found in and around the WSA.

For an area to have been designated a WSA, it must have wilderness characteristics: a minimum size, be natural, and have outstanding opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation.  An area's naturalness is based on whether the works of humans are substantially unnoticeable to the average visitor.  The WSA’s boundary is drawn to exclude dominant human impacts.  Sometimes these are excluded by means of a "cherrystem."  Cherrystems include a road (the stem) that leads to a defined area at its end (the cherry), which has substantial human impacts, but is surrounded by lands that otherwise have wilderness characteristics.  WSAs are not areas completely absent of the traces of human activity; small disturbances that are substantially unnoticeable can be present.  In the case of the Florida Mountains, a number of exploratory mining impacts are found inside the WSA; however, they are small enough to be overlooked by those experiencing the natural and undeveloped peaks and canyons within the WSA.  The WSA boundary excludes dominant mining impacts.

The WSA can be accessed via a number of surrounding roads, but the easiest access is from the adjacent Rockhound State Park, Spring Canyon Recreation Area (which requires a fee).  From Deming, New Mexico, drive east on NM 549 approximately 6¾ miles and turn right on Rock Hound Rd/NM 143.  Drive south for about 5.5 miles on 143, and then turn right onto NM 198.  Drive approximately 2 miles to where the road ends in the State Recreation Area.  Park at the Lovers Leap Canyon trailhead.  The Lovers Leap Trail is .8 miles and ends at the boundary of the WSA.  From there, hiking in the WSA is cross country.  For more information please visit the Florida Mountains WSA website.  

Click here for a map of Rockhound State Park and the Spring Canyon Recreation Area.

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Last updated: 04-23-2014