NCA and Wilderness Areas

Wilderness Areas


Only 2.7% of the lower 48 states is protected as wilderness – that’s an area about the size of Minnesota for the entire nation! Considering that, the ten Wilderness Areas of the Black Rock-High Rock National Conservation Area are a very precious public resource indeed.

With support from citizens like you, Friends of Black Rock High Rock is working hard to make sure Northwestern Nevada’s unique Wilderness Areas are here for today’s children and tomorrow’s grandchildren to enjoy.

Even as modern technologies touch every aspect of our lives, there’s still nothing like being out in a wide open, untouched stretch of wilderness.

Wilderness is an area affected primarily by the forces of nature alone: humanity’s imprint is mostly undetectable, and people are visitors here. Each Wilderness Area offers you a unique experience of the land, so take a look and start dreaming up your adventure:

Wilderness or NCA?

The difference between an NCA and Wilderness is found in the laws that determine how they are managed. Wilderness areas are administered under authority of the Wilderness Act of 1964, and the key difference in on-the-ground management between a Wilderness and an NCA is how access is controlled.

The Wilderness Act emphasizes management for wilderness values such as solitude and preservation. Each NCA is administered under authority of the specific act that created it. In the portions of the Black Rock Desert–High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails NCA that are not also designated as Wilderness areas, mechanized travel and use of other mechanized equipment may be regulated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in a manner consistent with the spirit and intent of the Act, but they are not specifically restricted by the Act.

What does this mean for visitors, besides a place, increasingly rare, from which to escape from the busyness of day-to-day life? One example: As of 2004, OHV travel is limited to about 800 miles of designated roads and trails, though the Black Rock Desert playa remains open to OHV use.

Check out all the crucial information you need to know before visiting the NCA »

There are approximately 752,000 acres in the Wilderness areas within or near the Black Rock Desert – High Rock Canyon Emigrant Trails NCA, and, of that amount, about 380,000 acres are included in the NCA itself. The NCA, including the Wilderness areas it contains, constitutes approximately 815,000 acres. In total, there are 1.2 million acres contained in the NCA and associated Wilderness areas. Check out the Maps page or contact us to confirm if you’ll be traveling in Wilderness or NCA.

Allowable Uses of Wilderness

Wilderness Areas provide for numerous recreation opportunities including; hiking backpacking, nature study, horsepacking, hunting, rock climbing, rockhounding, cross-country skiing, primitive camping, photography, or just enjoying the views and the solitude.

Activities that impact the wilderness characteristics of naturalness, opportunities for solitude or primitive recreation are not permitted, these include; using motorized or mechanical transport, motorized equipment, landing of aircraft, or constructing permanent structures. Mountain bikes and game carriers are considered to be forms of mechanical transport and are not permitted in wilderness. Wheelchairs are permitted in wilderness.

Exceptions to prohibited activities may be granted for some administrative uses, including wildfire suppression or search and rescue operations.

Livestock grazing may continue in wilderness areas where it occurred prior to the area being designated. Mining may also continue on valid existing mineral claims.

The NCA and the 10 Wilderness Areas are all part of the Bureau of Land Management’s National Conservation Lands. The managing agency for the NCA and Wilderness is the Bureau of Land Management Black Rock Field Office, 1500 E Winnemucca Blvd., Winnemucca NV 89445.

More things you need to know before you go »