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Eagletail Mountains Wilderness
Tonopah, ARIZONA

Eagletail Mountains Wilderness is a vast desert preserve located about 130 km west of Phoenix. Included in the area are magnificent mountains including stately Courthouse Rock, sheer cliffs, deep canyons, desert plains, bighorn sheep, desert mule deer, reptiles, and an extensive desert flora. Hikes of one day or several via backpack are possible. Desert solitude and beauty will immediately surround the adventurer. No cars. No buildings or utility poles. Out of cell phone network.

Access is via I-10. Driving west from Phoenix, the town of Tonopah is at Exit #94, continue 13 miles further to the Salome Rd. Exit #81 turning south onto the Harquahala Valley Road. Drive five miles south to Courthouse Road and turn west. This road makes a bee-line for Courthouse Rock. After 7 miles the road angles northwest as Pipeline Rd (a major gas pipeline runs beneath the roadway); the road becomes a bit sandy and rough but is passable for most cars ... about 4 miles further there is a turn off on the left to the main trailhead and a BLM wilderness kiosk ... about a half mile in. This short section of road might be too rough for some cars. The trail follows an old jeep road on the west side of Courthouse rock and over a low pass. Walking along desert washes will yield many interesting desert plants and fauna.

View Larger Map. The hiker symbol indicates location of main trailhead for Eagletail Mountains Wilderness. Automobile icon is Exit #94 from the Interstate-10 and the blue balloon is another area covered by the Sonoran Desert Naturalist, Saddle Mountain.
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Field Trip: Dec. 16, 2000

Arriving at dawn temperatures were just a bit above freezing and a chilly breeze was coming through the low pass behind Courthouse Rock. Temperatures warmed quickly, however, as we followed the abandoned jeep road as far as Indian Spring. Many flowers were open, especially Golden Eye and Jojoba. The Bitter Condalia trees were in full bloom bringing in many honey bees. The very sweet perfume of the condalia blooms was detectable 50 meters away. We covered about 8 km distance for a day hike.

Winter Birds

More Common Listed First:

  1. Verdin -- Auriparus flaviceps -- Tiny birds, barely larger than a hummingbird. Drab gray brown with a majestic yellow head.
  2. Rock Wren -- Salpinctes obsoletus -- Very common little birds which frequently give spirited high pitched trills while perched atop prominants. Their drab gray and brown color blends perfectly with the desert colors.
  3. Black-tailed Gnatcatcher -- Polioptila melanura --
  4. Phainopepla -- Phainopepla nitens --
  5. White-crowned Sparrow -- common to abundant winter birds with conspicuous white-striped head.
  6. Common Raven -- Corvus corax -- Conspicuous, large, jet black birds that soar above looking for food.
  7. Greater Roadrunner -- Geococcyx californianus --
  8. Yellow-rumped Warbler -- one seen at Indian Spring
Verdin  Rock Wren  Black-tailed Gnatcatcher  Yellow-rumped Warbler 

Greater Roadrunner photo by Marc Borom.


None were seen on trip of 16 Dec 2000

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In order of Abundance:
  1. Teddy Bear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii) --
  2. Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea giganteus) --
  3. Buckhorn Cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa) --
  4. Diamond Cholla -- Cylindropuntia ramosissima
  5. Compass Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus acanthodes) -- Spines tinged with red and yellow.
  6. Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii) --
  7. Fishhook Pincushion (Mammalaria grahamii) --
  8. Silver Cholla (Opuntia echinocarpa) -- some along Pipeline Rd.
Saguaro CactusEngelmann Hedgehog Cactus

Buckhorn Cholla photo by Mike Plagens.

Shrubs and Trees

More common species listed first.

  1. White Bursage (Ambrosia dumosa) -- The most common plant especially on the flats and shallow slopes. Often leafless after periods of drought or hard frost.
  2. Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata) -- dark evergreen shrub with shiny, resinous leaves and ashy or dark wirey twigs.
  3. Foothill Palo Verde (Cercidium microphyllum) --
  4. Wolfberry (Lycium andersoni) --
  5. Ironwood (Olneya tesota) -- common
  6. Cat-Claw Acacia (Acacia greggiii) - mostly along the washes
  7. Fagonia (Fagonia laevis) -- .
  8. White Ratany -- Krameria grayi -- purplish cast to woody stems
  9. Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) -- large shrubs with leathery, dark olive green leaves
  10. Brickel Bush (Brickelia coulteri) --
  11. Sweet Bush (Bebbia juncea) --
  12. Bitter Condalia (Condalia globosa) --
  13. Canyon Ragweed (Ambrosia artemesiafolia) - mostly along the washes
  14. Desert Mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum) - Parasitic shrub growing upon various desert trees including Palo Verde and Ironwood.
  15. Mormon Tea (Ephedra aspera) --
  16. Desert Tobacco (Nicotiana trigonophylla) --
  17. Brittle Bush (Encelia farinosa) -- Leafless after drought or frost. Leaves are silvery green and flowers are bright yellow.
  18. Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) --
  19. Golden Eye (Viguiera deltoidea) -- fairly common along the trail
  20. Desert Senna (Senna covesii) --
  21. Milkweed Vine (Sarcostemma cynanchoides) -- growing among wash bank shrubs
  22. Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) - peach colored blooms after periods of rain otherwise it is difficult to find
  23. Chuparosa (Justicia californica) --
  24. Wolfberry -- Lycium exsertum --
  25. Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi) --
  26. Silky Dalea (Dalea mollis) --
  27. Gray Thorn (Zizyphus obtusifolia) --
  28. Oreganillo (Aloysia wrightii) --
  29. Trixis (Trixis californica) --
  30. Wire Lettuce (Stephanomeria pauciflora) --
  31. Big Root (Marah gilensis) -- vine growing among wash bank shrubs
  32. Indian Mallow (Abutilon incanum) --
  33. Janusia (Janusia gracilis) - a twisty, viney plant
  34. Big Galeta (Hilaria rigida) --
  35. Wright Buckwheat (Eriogonum wrightii) --
  36. Snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae) --
  37. Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) - mostly along the washes
  38. Yellow Felt Plant (Horsfordia newberryi) --
  39. Indian Root (Aristolochia watsoni) --
  40. Rock Hibiscus (Hibiscus denudas) --
  41. California Columbrina (Columbrina californica -- a rare and unusual shrub in AZ
  42. Gooding's Willow (Salix goodingi) -- just one old tree, at Indian Spring
Pen and Ink © Mike Plagens

Indian Mallow occurs on rocky slopes particularly along drainages in partial shade. The flowers are pale yellow-orange.

WILDFLOWER REPORT (obs. 16 Dec 2000)

Yellow Flowers: White/Green Flowers
Lavender, Pink, Purple Flowers Orange, Maroon
  • Six Species

Butterflies too!

Lots of Painted Ladies and a few Queens.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 15 January 2001,
updated 8 Aug. 2016.