The Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness straddles the Arizona-Utah border with 15,000 acres of the 17,600-acre property in Arizona. This part of the Mohave Desert region is an area of jagged mountains surrounded by a gently sloping alluvial plain.

Desert bighorn sheep in the Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness

The primary vegetation in Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness consists of scattered grasses, desert shrubs and Joshua trees, although there are some nice riparian areas along the Virgin River corridor (13 miles of river flow through the eastern side of the Wilderness). Higher elevations tend to be covered with blackbrush and pinon-juniper woodlands.There are also good numbers of desert bighorn sheep and lots of raptors in the area. You might also come across an endangered desert tortoise or two out here. There are some rare plants in these mountains and the extinction-threatened woundfin minnow makes its home in the Virgin River.

By the early 1900's, the desert bighorn sheep in this area had been totally hunted out. The Bureau of Land Management began releasing desert bighorn sheep into the area along the Virgin River and certain other reliable waters in the area. By 1996, the desert bighorn sheep population in the wilderness area was estimated at 120 individuals. As good as that number might seem, more than 85% of the suitable desert bighorn sheep habitat in the area is not used by the sheep.

Every year sees more and more backpackers in the Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness but there are no maintained or developed trails. As this is pretty stark countryside, you might want to know what you're doing before you head out into this bush. The Virgin River also attracts a number of rafters and kayakers in the spring and summer but water flows can drop too far in the fall and winter for the river to be any fun.

The Beaver Dam Mountains are separated from the Virgin Mountains by a deep, beautiful gorge cut through by the Virgin River (which gorge is now shared with the I-15). Both mountain ranges feature sandstone terraces between colorful and heavily eroded cliffs. The Beaver Dam Mountains are marginally more accessible than the Virgin Mountains.

Exit 18 on the I-15 leads to BLM road 1005, a steep, winding rocky track that climbs upwards for several hundred feet before crossing the ridge and dropping down to intersect with the Littlefield Road (the main route through the area before the construction of the I-15 through the Virgin River Gorge in the 1970's). BLM 1005 doesn't see much traffic but it does give reasonably easy access to free camping sites with geat views and direct access to the Beaver Dam Mountains Wilderness. At Exit 27 on the I-15 is a short road leading to what was once the town of Black Rock, and then over the ridge to more excellent campsites with great views and wilderness access.

USGS Maps: 7.6 minute: Jarvis Peak, Castle Cliff, Littlefield, Mountain Sheep Spring