Tinajas Altas Mountains

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Tinajas Altas Mountains
BMGR-Tinajas Altas.JPG
Sign along El Camino Del Diablo in Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, near Wellton, Arizona, at spur road to Tinajas Altas.
Highest point
PeakUnnamed, 32°16′26″N114°02′48″W / 32.27389°N 114.04667°W / 32.27389; -114.04667
Elevation 843 m (2,766 ft)
Length35 km (22 mi)
Width6.4 km (4.0 mi)
USA Arizona relief location map.svg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Tinajas Altas Mountains
Countries United States and Mexico
State Arizona
Regions Sonoran Desert, Yuma Desert and Gran Desierto de Altar
District Yuma County, Arizona
Settlement Fortuna Foothills, Arizona
Range coordinates 32°17′00″N114°03′00″W / 32.2833333°N 114.05°W / 32.2833333; -114.05 Coordinates: 32°17′00″N114°03′00″W / 32.2833333°N 114.05°W / 32.2833333; -114.05
Borders on Gila Mountains (Yuma County), Yuma Desert, Lechuguilla Desert and Gran Desierto de Altar
Type of rock granite (light-colored)

The Tinajas Altas Mountains (O'odham: Uʼuva:k or Uʼuv Oopad) are an extremely arid northwest-southeast trending mountain range in southern Yuma County, Arizona, approximately 35 mi southeast of Yuma, Arizona. The southern end of the range extends approximately one mile into the northwestern Mexican state of Sonora on the northern perimeter of the Gran Desierto de Altar. The range is about 22 mi in length and about 4 mi wide at its widest point. The highpoint of the range is unnamed and is 2,766 feet (843 meters) above sea level and is located at 32°16'26"N, 114°02'48"W (NAD 1983 datum). Aside from the portion of the range in Mexico, the entirety of the range lies within the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range. They lie at the heart of the traditional homeland of the Hia C-eḍ O'odham people.


Geology and geography

Geologically, the Tinajas Altas Mountains are a southeastward extension of the block faulted Gila Mountains, and what are now the Tinajas Altas Mountains were actually considered part of the Gila Mountains until about the middle of the 20th century. The two ranges are separated by Cipriano Pass, also referred to as "Smugglers Pass," about two miles northwest of Raven Butte, 2,694 feet (821 m) which is a notable dark-colored volcanic feature on the eastern flank of the otherwise light-colored granitic range.

The range is named for the Tinajas Altas ("High Tanks"), which are a series of perched waterholes on the range's eastern side approximately four miles north of the international boundary. The waterholes figured prominently in the history of the area as they were for many years the only reliable source of water for many miles. Native Americans, principally the Hia C-eḍ O'odham, also utilized the waterholes as an important camp prior to European settlement. [1]

The range lies in the Lower Colorado subdivision of the Sonoran Desert. This subdivision is sometimes referred to as the Colorado Desert and encompasses much of southeastern California, southwestern Arizona, northwestern Sonora, and northeastern Baja California. The subdivision is characterized by minimal precipitation, and the area around the Tinajas Altas Mountains averages only about three inches of rainfall per year. [2]

Mexican topographic maps and United States Geological Survey (USGS) maps of the region disagree on the name of an adjacent range lying to the southeast of the Tinajas Altas Mountains. In the United States this small range is referred to as the Sierra de la Lechuguilla, but in Mexico they are called the Sierra Tinajas Altas which would suggest that they are a longer extension of the Tinajas Altas Mountains into Mexico. The two ranges, however, share no surface connection so they are not the same. The Sierra de la Lechuguilla/Sierra Tinajas Altas range are instead on a parallel alignment to the southeast of the Tinajas Altas Mountains proper. [3] [4] [5]

The closest community to the Tinajas Altas Mountains is Fortuna Foothills in the east of the Yuma Valley adjacent to the Gila Mountains.


The Tinajas Altas Mountains exhibit a variety of flora and fauna species. Among the notable flora present is the elephant tree, ( Bursera microphylla ), which species exhibits a contorted multi-furcate architecture. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sonoran Desert North American desert

The Sonoran Desert is a North American desert and ecoregion which covers large parts of the Southwestern United States in Arizona and California and of Northwestern Mexico in Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur. It is the hottest desert in Mexico. It has an area of 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 sq mi). The western portion of the United States–Mexico border passes through the Sonoran Desert.

Pima people Group of Native Americans

The Pima are a group of Native Americans living in an area consisting of what is now central and southern Arizona, as well as northwestern Mexico in the states of Sonora and Chihuahua. The majority population of the surviving two bands of the Akimel O'odham are based in two reservations: the Keli Akimel Oʼotham on the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) and the On'k Akimel O'odham on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC).

Yuma Desert

The Yuma Desert is a lower-elevation section of the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern United States and the northwest of Mexico. It lies in the Salton basin. The desert contains areas of sparse vegetation and has notable areas of sand dunes. With an average rainfall less than 8 inches (200 mm) each year, this is among the harshest deserts in North America. Human presence is sparse throughout, the largest city being Yuma, Arizona, on the Colorado River and the border of California.

Lechuguilla Desert

The Lechuguilla Desert is a small desert located in southwestern Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico border. It is considered to be part of the Lower Colorado Valley region of the Sonoran Desert. It lies in a north–south direction between the Gila Mountains and the Cabeza Prieta Mountains, and almost entirely in the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range. The desert is named after the Lechuguilla plant, known scientifically as Agave lecheguilla which according to the Wikipedia entry for that occurs exclusively in the Chihuahuan desert many hundreds of miles to the east. The desert is also on the north border of the Gran Desierto de Altar of Sonora, Mexico.

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge (CPNWR) is located in southwestern Arizona in the United States, along 56 miles (90 km) of the Mexico–United States border. It is bordered to the north and to the west by the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range, to the south by Mexico's El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, to the northeast by the town of Ajo, and to the southeast by Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Gran Desierto de Altar Region of the Sonoran Desert

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<i>Bursera microphylla</i> Species of flowering plant

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Cabeza Prieta Mountains

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Bryan Mountains

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Gila Mountains (Yuma County)

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Sierra Pinta

The Sierra Pinta or Sierra Pintas are a narrow remote block faulted northwest-southeast trending mountain range, about 22 miles (35 km) long located in southwestern Arizona in the arid northwestern Sonoran Desert, just north of the Pinacate Reserve of northern Sonora, Mexico. The mountains derive their name from visitor descriptions of its multicolored hues when viewed at sunrise and sunset.

Pinacate Peaks

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El Camino del Diablo United States historic place

El Camino del Diablo is a historic 250-mile (400 km) road that currently extends through some of the most remote and arid terrain of the Sonoran Desert in Pima County and Yuma County, Arizona. In use for at least 1,000 years, El Camino del Diablo is believed to have started as a series of footpaths used by desert-dwelling Native Americans. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, the road was used extensively by conquistadores, explorers, missionaries, settlers, miners, and cartographers. Use of the trail declined sharply after the railroad reached Yuma in 1870. In recognition of its historic significance, El Camino del Diablo was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It has also been designated a Bureau of Land Management Back Country Byway.

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Puerto Peñasco Municipality Municipality in Sonora, Mexico

Puerto Peñasco Municipality is a municipality in Sonora in north-western Mexico. As of 2015, the municipality had a total population of 62,177 inhabitants. The only locality with a significant population is the municipal seat, also named Puerto Peñasco, which contains almost 99% of the municipality's population.

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve

El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve is a biosphere reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site managed by the Federal government of Mexico, specifically by Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources, in collaboration with state government of Sonora and the Tohono O'odham.


  1. Broyles, Bill, Luke Evans, Richard Stephen Felger, and Gary Nabhan. 2007. Our Grand Desert: A Gazetteer for Northwestern Sonora, Southwestern Arizona, and Northeastern Baja California. In Dry Borders: Great Natural Reserves of the Sonoran Desert, Broyles, B. and R. Felger, editors. University of Utah Press.
  2. Sellers, William D. and Richard H. Hill. 1974. Arizona Climate: 1931-1972. University of Arizona Press. Tucson, Arizona.
  3. U.S. Geological Survey. 1965. Tinajas Altas Quadrangle, Arizona. 15-minute Series (Topographic). Washington, D.C.
  4. U.S. Geological Survey. 1996. Tinajas Altas Quadrangle, Arizona-Sonora. 7.5-minute Series (Topographic). Reston, Virginia
  5. Direccion General de Geografia del Territorio Nacional. Mina del Desierto, Sonora. 1:50000 scale topographic map. Mexico, D.F.
  6. C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Elephant Tree: Bursera microphylla, GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg Archived 2012-03-07 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading