Cabeza Prieta


By: Ron Jones


I have discovered the best desert for solitude and beauty I have ever encountered! The Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge in Arizona goes to the top of my list. I won't say too much more as I want others to explore it and decide for themselves. Too many people would ruin it. Presently this 860,000 acre desert refuge receives only 1-1,500 visitors per year. I would suggest that the DPS schedule several exploratories and that a peak found (perhaps Cabeza Prieta or Tinaja Alta) to be considered for our peak list.

The Refuge contains many desert animals including 75 rare Sonora Antelope and 250-300 Desert Big Horn.

Steve, Dean and Pat Acheson and I met in Yuma for our west to east drive. The trip would be better done east to west from Ajo and Organ Pipe National Monument west to Interstate 8, Exit 29 in Wellton. We drove in a northerly entrance from Tacna and traversed along the Sierra Pinta and the Tule Desert. In 19 miles, rouqh but suitable for my VW and Dean's Subaru, we reached Tule

Well on El Camtno del Diablo. This old wagon road was known as the Highway of the Devil, a 250 mile route from Caborca Mexico to Yuma Arizona. Tule Well has a rock cabin, picnic tables, a wind fan pump with water tank and features an outdoor shower. A real oasis!

We turned west and drove 22 miles to Tinajas Altas, a series of pools in the rock walls above our camp. From camp we climbed Tinajas Altas Pk, 2764ft, and found the first recorded record of ascent in December 1980 by Gordon MacLeod, Barbara Lilley and Mike McNicholas. A party of two reached the summit in 1989 and another party of 5 climbed earlier in 1990. Ours was the 4th recorded ascent party. The peak is a challenge in route finding through beautiful white granite rock and the summit is only 1 or 2 miles north of the Mexican border.

The next day we drove east passing Tule Well again, the north edges of the Pinacate Lava Flow, Papago Well and into Organ Pipe National Monument. Here I turned south to visit Quitobaquito Pond before heading north to the Cabeza Prieta Refuge Headquarters in Ajo.

The Headquarters are at 1611 North Second Ave in Ajo, 85321, just south of Rasmusson Road on the west side of 2nd. (Tel: 602-387-6483) Their office hours are 9 to 5. A permit is required to enter the Refuge and the Hdqtrs will coordinate your permit with Goldwater Gunnery Range and the Marine Base, both of which occupy part of the Refuge. No mail applications are accepted for the first 1 1/2 weeks of each month. Including the manager there is a staff of 5 people overseeing this area.

Steve and I say visit and explore here if you love the Sonora Desert. Thanks to Steve for his usual fine assist.

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