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The World's First Wilderness Area


One early morning in October, 2018, the drive north between Silver City and Reserve provided views of the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area with its deep canyons and rugged peaks draped with fog from the rain the night before. A small sign at the side of the road announced an entrance to the Aldo Leopold Vista Picnic Area. Stopping here is well worth the time to take in the interpretive signs and sweeping views.

On June 3, 1924, Congress designated the Gila Wilderness in southwestern New Mexico, the first wilderness in the world to be protected. Over time its area was reduced, and in 1980 a portion of the Gila National Forest wilderness area was established as the Aldo Leopold Wilderness. Aldo Leopold, well known conservationist, was a professor, and author who worked for the Forest Service in New Mexico and Arizona when they were still territories of the United States. He was instrumental in the development of environmental ethics.

The Aldo Leopold Wilderness reaches a height of 8148’/2484 m at Emory Pass where the Black Range Crest Trailhead provides access to the highest peaks of the Range, as well as the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This is rough country with scarce water which sees low visitation. In the quiet and the mist of an early morning it is easy to imagine miners, ranchers, and one special conservationist on horseback exploring the beauty of the mountains.


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