Otay Mountain Wilderness

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Otay Mountain Wilderness
IUCN category V (protected landscape/seascape)
Otay Mountain Wilderness Area BLM sign.jpg
BLM sign on Otay Mountain Truck Trail
Relief map of California.png
Red pog.svg
Location in California
Location San Diego County, United States
Nearest city Otay Mesa
Coordinates 32°35′40″N116°50′40″W / 32.59444°N 116.84444°W / 32.59444; -116.84444 Coordinates: 32°35′40″N116°50′40″W / 32.59444°N 116.84444°W / 32.59444; -116.84444
Area16,885 acres (6,833 ha) [1]
Established1999 (1999)
Governing body Bureau of Land Management [1] [2]
Tecate cypress in the Otay Mountain Wilderness Tecate CypressOtay.jpg
Tecate cypress in the Otay Mountain Wilderness

The Otay Mountain Wilderness is a U.S. Wilderness Area located in San Diego County, California, 12 miles east of the city of Otay Mesa and just north of the Mexican border. Some parts of the wilderness area rise quickly from sea level, reaching a peak of just over 3,500 feet (1,100 m) at the summit of Otay Mountain. [3]


Wilderness status was conferred on October 7, 1998, effectively preserving 18,500 acres under protection of the Wilderness Act, a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System. [4] The legislation was signed by President Bill Clinton [5] :306 on December 11, 1999. [6]


The wilderness lies in the San Ysidro Mountains, [3] of which Otay Mountain is the highest summit at 3,566 feet (1,087 m). [7] The mountain, and its immediate surroundings, are extremely rugged and include steep, often precipitous, canyon walls and hills. [8]

The public lands within the Otay Mountain Wilderness are one of the last remaining pristine locations in western San Diego County. Adjacent to the Mexican border, it is internationally known for its diversity of unique and sensitive plants. The area plays a critical role in San Diego's multi-species conservation plan. [4] :306

Natural history

Tecate cypress Cupressus forbesii Survivor Tree Coal Canyon.JPG
Tecate cypress

The San Ysidro Mountains are remnants of a chain of ancient volcanoes from which meta-volcanic soils form, sustaining a diverse chaparral community dominated by chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum), [9] mixed chaparral and coastal sagebrush habitats. [10]


The world's largest stand of Tecate cypress (Cupressus forbesii) are found at Otay Mountain Wilderness, as are at least 15 plant species that are candidates for federal listing as threatened or endangered species. In all 37 plant species found on Otay Mountain are listed as sensitive by the California Native Plant Society, at least five, including the Tecate cypress, occur only on Otay Mountain or in the immediate are. [10]

Particularly important species include: [9]

Southern mountain misery Chamaebatia australis 5.jpg
Southern mountain misery

Endangered species [11]

Rare species [11]


Coast horned lizard Phrynosoma coronatum.jpg
Coast horned lizard

The diversity of habitats within the wilderness area maintains a variety of indigenous fauna, including a number of rare or endangered species. The most numerous large animal is the mule deer. [4] :11–12]

Species of special concern on Otay Mountain include: [10]

Bighorn sheep New Mexico Bighorn Sheep.JPG
Bighorn sheep

Endangered species

Protected species [4] :11–12]

Border wall

In the mid 1990s, as part of Operation Gatekeeper, [13] Department of Homeland Security contractors began to build a border wall, [14] and associated access roads. [15] The initial phase of wall building extended from San Diego only as far as the foothills of Otay Mountain. [16]

An environmental impact statement carried out prior to a waiver of an environmental law, required to allow construction within the wilderness area, concluded that the work on the border wall would have long-term impacts on plant, animal and water courses within the area. Grading and construction of roads in the wilderness area would result in removal of layers of topsoil and delicate, intertwined root systems that protect dry chaparral habitat from erosion. [12] The wall itself disrupts the ability of migratory animals, like the javelina, to roam freely across its natural range. [17] In December 2008 work began to continue the wall's progress through the wilderness area, [17] under the auspices of the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

See also


IUCN category obtained from Protected Planet: Otay Mountain State Ecological Reserve entry. Retrieved March 2015.

Related Research Articles

San Ysidro, San Diego Community of San Diego in California

San Ysidro is a district of the City of San Diego, immediately north of the U.S.-Mexico border. It neighbors Otay Mesa West to the north, Otay Mesa to the east, and Nestor and the Tijuana River Valley to the west; together these communities form South San Diego, a practical exclave of the City of San Diego. Major thoroughfares include Beyer Boulevard and San Ysidro Boulevard.

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Otay Mesa is a community in the southern section of the city of San Diego, just north of the U.S.–Mexico border.

San Diego–Tijuana International transborder agglomeration in Southern California and northwestern Baja California

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<i>Hemizonia</i> Genus of flowering plants

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<i>Cupressus forbesii</i> Species of conifer

Cupressus forbesii, now reclassified by some as Hesperocyparis forbesii, and with the common names Tecate cypress or Forbes' cypress, is a species of cypress native to southwestern North America.

<i>Lepechinia ganderi</i> Species of plant

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San Ysidro Mountains Mountain range in southern San Diego County, California

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<i>Fremontodendron mexicanum</i> Species of shrub

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San Diego County, California County in California, United States

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San Ysidro Port of Entry Border crossing between Mexico and the U.S.

The San Ysidro Port of Entry is the largest land border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana, and the fourth-busiest land border crossing in the world with 70,000 northbound vehicles and 20,000 northbound pedestrians crossing each day, in addition to southbound traffic. It connects Mexican Federal Highway 1 on the Mexican side with Interstate 5 on the American side. The San Ysidro Port of Entry is one of three ports of entry in the San Diego–Tijuana metropolitan region.

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Savage Dam is a dam across the Otay River in the San Ysidro Mountains of southwestern San Diego County, California. It is a concrete arch gravity structure 149 feet (45 m) high, and serves to store water from the San Diego Aqueduct's third pipeline for backup municipal uses in the San Diego metropolitan area. It is just over 6 miles (9.7 km) southeast of Chula Vista and 4 miles (6.4 km) north of the United States-Mexico border. The dam is named in honor of H. N. Savage, who directed its construction.

Transportation in San Diego–Tijuana occurs by various means. Though, in the four cities of San Diego, Tijuana, Tecate, and Rosarito Beach, the automobile serves as most important means of transportation. The international metropolitan region maintains an intricate highway infrastructure. As a large metropolitan area in Western North America, many roadways, including Interstates, State Routes, and Mexican Federal Highways, hold a terminus in the area. These roads have grown accustomed to support the masses of the commuting populace within the international region and are constantly being expanded and/or renovated. Transportation is a crucial issue in the metropolitan area. The streets and highways of the region affect environmental health and have influence over the degree of regional connectivity. Binational discussions about coordinating public transportation across the border are currently underway. San Diego–Tijuana is the site of two major international airports and numerous regional airports. It is also the site of the Port of San Diego and miles from the nearby Port of Ensenada.

Otay Mesa Port of Entry Border crossing between Mexico and the U.S.

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Tecate Port of Entry Border crossing between Mexico and the U.S.

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Silverwood Wildlife Sanctuary is a nature preserve owned and operated by the San Diego Audubon Society (SDAS). Silverwood was set up in 1965 to preserve coastal chaparral and riparian woodland habitats. It is also a nature education facility for San Diego area schoolchildren and adults, and functions as part of a wildlife migration corridor.

East Otay Mesa is an as-yet undeveloped area in the South Bay region of unincorporated San Diego County, southern California.

Otay Mountain

Otay Mountain is a mountain located in San Diego County, California. It is the highest summit of the San Ysidro Mountains. The mountain is located inside the Otay Mountain Wilderness Area. The physical border separating Mexico and the United States has received criticism for the harm it allegedly perpetuated to the environment, both in its construction and in its very nature.


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