BLM New Mexico COVID-19 Information Update

The Department of the Interior’s current COVID-19 policy incorporates CDC guidance. As CDC science-based guidance changes, our policy will adapt. Visitors have always been encouraged by DOI to review CDC guidance when making their plans to recreate responsibly. CDC guidance indicates that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations. Unvaccinated people must wear a mask indoors in DOI buildings at all times and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained. All people, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask on all forms of public transportation and in healthcare settings on DOI lands. We will continue to ask visitors to follow CDC guidance to recreate responsibly.

The latest information on changes to facilities and services in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) is available here.

View the alert: BLM New Mexico COVID-19 Information Update

Whitethorn Wilderness Area


1800 Marquess Street Las Cruces, NM 88005

32.014244, -107.270072

The south and western part of the Greater Potrillo Mountains complex is easily reached by Highway 9 that goes from Santa Teresa to Columbus along the border with Mexico. From I-10 exit #8 in Texas, head west toward the border crossing on Highway 136. Just north of the border, about 9½ miles southwest of the interstate exit, turn west on Highway 9. In 16½ miles, CR A008 comes in on the north. This road forms the eastern boundary of the East Potrillo Mountains unit.

Whitethorn Wilderness Area

The Whitethorn Wilderness is named for the prevalent white-thorn acacia, a key year-round food source for quail and a summer food source for desert mule deer. The volcanic landscape is characterized by cinder cones and craters. Weathered lava houses small and large wildlife, and views stretch hundreds of miles.

Raptors are common, especially during the winter. Golden eagles, great-horned owls, and Swainson’s hawks nest here, and peregrine falcons have also been reported. Other species that forage and live in the area include pronghorn, mule deer, quail, jackrabbits, and occasional migrating ducks on ephemeral ponds.

Chihuahuan Desert grassland and yucca, in association with a mosaic of other desert shrubs such as creosote, acacia, and mesquite, make up the majority of the plant cover in the area. Isolated clumps of netleaf hackberry and other desert trees are found in the lava flow where depressions or deeper pockets of soil hold extra water after rainfall. Summer monsoon rains bring extensive stands of wildflowers in this area including white and yellow desert zinnias, desert marigolds, blackfoot daisies, globe mallow, pepperweed, desert sunflowers, Chihuahuan flax, and summer poppy.