Welcome to the Wilderness Project

The Wilderness Project is my photographic documentation of the federally-designated wilderness areas in Riverside County, where I live in southern California. In addition to several desert wilderness areas created by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994 (CDPA), Riverside County is also home to wildernesses in sky island mountain ranges like the San Jacinto and Santa Rosa Mountains, as well as sage scrub habitats like the Agua Tibia Wilderness, and I will photograph these as well. The goal of the project is to celebrate the diversity of landscapes we have set aside to protect, and to show them to people who may not be aware they exist.

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South Fork San Jacinto Wilderness

In the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains, the South Fork of the San Jacinto River slips along unnoticed next to the highway that most visitors zoom up to get to the popular mountain town of Idyllwild and the hiking destination of the San Jacinto Wilderness.  Ribbonwood and manzanita dominate the lower elevations in the San Jacintos and, admittedly, the South Fork of the San Jacinto River watershed (and the Wilderness that protects it) looks pretty unremarkable. However, I was reminded after several visits that sometimes the best gifts come wrapped in plain paper.

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Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness

To the east of the Mecca Hills Wilderness and southeast of Joshua Tree National Park lie the Chuckwalla Mountains. The Chuckwallas are more or less continuous with the Little Chuckwalla Mountains; together these ranges form an imposing range of mountains separating the Interstate-10 corridor from desert areas further south. Despite their proximity to the heavily traveled Interstate-10, the Chuckwallas carry with them an almost certainty of solitude and quiet.

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Joshua Tree Wilderness

The Joshua Tree Wilderness is probably the best known (and most accessible) of Riverside County’s wilderness areas. Joshua Tree National Monument was designated in 1936, and it became a national park in 1994, when the California Desert Protection Act (CDPA) was passed.  Several laws have added to the Joshua Tree Wilderness, which today comprises about 85% of Joshua Tree National Park; the the entire wilderness is managed by the National Park Service.  Continue reading “Joshua Tree Wilderness”

Mecca Hills Wilderness

Geologists on the whole are inconsistent drivers. When a roadcut presents itself, they tend to lurch and weave. To them, the roadcut is a portal, a fragment of a regional story, a proscenium arch that leads their imaginations into the earth and through the surrounding terrane.” – John McPhee


If roadcuts are a tool the geologist relies on to learn the story of the land, then faults must be just as good, providing a natural separation of the earth. The San Andreas is the mother of them all. Running over 600 miles from southern California towards the San Francisco Bay, the San Andreas Fault has exposed a lot of rock over the last hundreds of millions of years. The Mecca Hills Wilderness, which was established by Congress in 1994 and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, is a great example of rock that has been exposed by this fault. Continue reading “Mecca Hills Wilderness”

San Jacinto Wilderness

The San Jacinto Wilderness (designated in 1964) is located in its namesake sky island mountain range in western Riverside County, California. Despite the fact that the Wilderness lies over much of the high San Jacinto Mountains, it does not contain San Jacinto Peak (10,833′)–the highest point in Riverside County. The peak lies within San Jacinto Mountains State Park, which bisects the Wilderness. Nevertheless, the Wilderness contains some beautiful scenery. Administered by the US Forest Service, much of the San Jacinto Wilderness lies within the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, which was established in 2000. Continue reading “San Jacinto Wilderness”