Agua Tibia Wilderness

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Agua Tibia Wilderness
IUCN Category II (National Park)
Agua Tibia Wilderness
US locator map
Location California
Nearest city Temecula, CA
Coordinates {{{cords}}}
Area[1] 17,961 acres (72.69 km²)
Established January 3, 1975
Governing body U.S. Forest Service
Website - Agua Tibia Wilderness, Dripping Spring trail

Agua Tibia Wilderness With over 25 miles of hiking trails, the Agua Tibia was established as a wilderness on January 3, 1975. This 17,961-acre area is mountainous and cut by many deep canyons containing only intermittent streams. The wilderness covers an obscure section of Cleveland National Forest, a protected area in Riverside and San Diego counties, in the U.S. state of California. Just east of Temecula, straddling the San Diego-Riverside County line. Vegetation is mostly chaparral with oak woodlands and some coniferous forests at the higher elevations. Small pools of water in the canyon bottoms become warm in summer months and thus the name Agua Tibia. Summer temperatures may exceed 100 degrees in the canyons and on the slopes, but are a moderate 80-90 degrees at upper elevations. Rain averages 25 inches annually and falls usually from January through April. Snow falls on upper slopes occasionally. The late autumn through early spring is the most moderate weather season for hiking. Specifically the early spring season during the month of March is typically the seasonal best for hiking slopes which are also greening and flowering during this time.

Agua Tibia Wilderness
Agua Tibia Wilderness - map southern california US and National Park Service class 1 areas

Mountain and elevation points

Agua Tibia Mountain, at an elevation of 4479 feet above sea level with a Latitude of 33.40975°N /Longitude:116.98197°W is the highest point and main attraction located in the Agua Tibia Wilderness in Southern California. Agua Tibia Mountain is a peak located in the northwest part of the Palomar Mountain Range. East of Temecula and south of State Route 79, most of it lies within the Cleveland National Forest, though the southernmost lower elevation part is contained in the Pauma Indian Reservation. The "peak" of Agua Tibia (Spanish for warm water) is a nearly-level ridge over 3 miles long that varies from 4400' at its northwest end to 5077' Eagle Crag at its southeast end. The peak itself sits at 4779 ft above sea level and the low point along the ridge is Crosley Saddle at 3931'.

Entry point

Agua Tibia Wilderness - Cleveland National Forest sign at the entry

Agua Tibia's only convenient entry point lies along State Route 79, ten miles east of Interstate 15. On the right (south side) of the road where the Dripping Springs Fire Station, Dripping Springs Campground, and a trailhead parking lot for Agua Tibia Wilderness visitors provides the main access to the area. A National Forest Adventure Pass must be posted on vehicles. Entry is free, however to park there's an envelope that needs to be filled out accepting cash for $5 a vehicle/day. A camping permit from the forest service is required for overnight stays in the wilderness area.

Hiking and environment

Most trails are in the eastern portion of the wilderness, the western portion is very dry and not often visited. Dogs are also able to use the trails but must be kept on leash. The 20-mile-round-trip hike to the crest and back on Wild Horse Trail and its extension, Crosley Trail, is the longest hike. The shorter, steeper summit climb on Dripping Springs Trail is 6.8 miles long and 14 miles round trip. At two to three miles up, there is a spectacular northern vista of Southern California's highest mountains -- San Antonio "Old Baldy", San Gorgonio, and San Jacinto -- each wearing a snowcap well into the spring season.

At 4.5 miles, the trail descends slightly where humans can spot the white dome of the 200-inch Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory gleaming on a ridge about nine miles southeast.

Multiple trails of note: The Wild Horse Trail, on the left, gains elevation relatively slowly. The Dripping Springs Trail (about 6.8 miles long), begins a steady and very crooked ascent of Agua Tibia Mountain's north flank. From the crest of the mountain, the Palomar-McGee Trail (about 5.5 miles long) enters a Forest land, descends to Crosley Saddle, and continues south near Eagle Crag before branching off into the Wilderness.

Agua Tibia is firmly in the Temecula Valley, weather-wise, and is very hot in the summer for the climate. In the majority of areas there is little shade except at the very highest elevations, typical daytime temperatures exceed 100° in most of the Wilderness, and above 85° at the highest locations. There are no permanent streams in the wilderness and as such are no sources of water, particularly in the summer. Agua Tibia is viewed much more as a desert environment than a mountain environment, in terms of visitor use. During the rainy season, Agua Tibia receives far less rain (approximately 25 inches) than its very close neighbor Palomar Mountain (approximately 45 inches).

Plant life

  • Rainbow Manzanita, the plant was described as a new species in 1994 and is a rare and endangered species is endemic to California, where it is known only from northern San Diego and southern Riverside Counties and found in small areas of the Agua Tibia mountains. The Rainbow Manzanita was named for the community of Rainbow, California, near where it is most common in the chaparral of the lower elevation coastal mountains. Rainbow Manzanita is an erect shrub reaching a bushlike one meter to a treelike four meters in height. The plant produces a burl at its base and is coated in reddish brown, smooth bark. The oval leaves are up to 5 centimeters long and 3.5 wide and are hairless and somewhat waxy in texture. The flower cluster is a hanging cluster of white urn-shaped flowers each about 6 to 8 millimeters long. The fruit is about a centimeter wide and ripens to a dark purple-brown.
  • Ribbonwood/ribbon bush/redshanks plants are a large shrub native to upper chaparral in California and Baja California reach giant heights of up to 20' and are the most common in the Agua Tibia Wilderness and Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area.
  • Nevin's barberry, is endemic to California, and its distribution is limited to the southern portion of the state. Nevin's barberry is known from around 30 occurrences in the foothills of the San Gabriel, Santa Ana, and Palomar mountains. The Agua Tibia Mountain is the northwest part of the Palomar Mountain Range and contains the endangered plant species of flowering shrub in the barberry family. The plant grows into a medium to large size evergreen shrub growing up to 12 feet tall and as wide. It's distinctive pale blue-green foliage is comprised of prickly leaves that are divided into 3-5 leaflets and have sharp spines on the margins. Colorful clusters of clear yellow flowers occur in spring; colorful fruit is yellow to red and of value to wildlife.
  • Round-leaved boykinia, is also known as San Gabriel brook foam and is an uncommon species of flowering plant. It is endemic to southern California from Ventura to San Diego Counties, where its restricted to moist canyon bottoms and primarily seasonal waterfalls, but growing in shady forested areas near streams in the mountains below 6,000 feet. It's a perennial herb producing leaves with blades up to 30 centimeters long, borne on petioles up to 18 centimeters in length. Each leaf has several rounded lobes with dull teeth along the edges. The flower cluster reaches up to a meter tall on a thin stem. It bears a dense array of many small white flowers, each with five tiny pointed sepals and five larger oval petals.

There are rare, endemic, relict and endangered plant species within the Agua Tibia Wilderness. There is a 480-517 acre property research natural area within the wilderness specially set aside for the study of the relict Bigcone Douglas fir.Bigcone Douglas-fir is a tree and considered a relict species since it now occupies a much smaller native range than it formerly did. It has a sparse herb layer and occurs on very steep slopes. The trees are somewhat fire resistant, but would be eliminated by frequent fires. Bigcone Douglas-fir is endemic being confined exclusively to the mountains of Southern California. The Bigcone Douglas thrives in dry environments at the middle elevations of Southern California mountains. Vail Lake Ceanothus,is a California endangered species, and a rare species of flowering shrub known by the common name Vail Lake ceanothus, native to Southern California. It was not described until 1991. The Ceanothus ophiochilus plant is endemic to California. It is only known from a few sites and occurrences in the Agua Tibia Wilderness and vicinity of Vail Lake and the Black Hills, east of Temecula and west of the Santa Rosa Mountains in southwestern Riverside County. Ceanothus ophiochilus is a plant of the chaparral plant community, and in its small native range which currently is only a few acres.

External Links

United States Department of Agriculture Terms

Aerial photograph; Artificial and modified surfaces; Barren; Barren land; Beach; Census water; Climatic factor; Close-grown crops; Conservation practice; Conservation Reserve Program; Conservation Reserve Program land; Cover and management factor; Cowardin system; Cropland; Cropping history; Deepwater habitat; Developed land; Erodibility index; Erosion (USDA); Estuarine Wetland; Farmsteads and ranch headquarters; Field; Forest land; General cover; Growing season; Habitat composition; Habitat configuration; Habitat patch; Hayland; Herbaceous; Horticultural cropland; Irrigated land; Lacustrine System; Lake (land type); Land capability classification; Land cover/use; Large streams; Large urban and built-up areas; Large water bodies; Marine System; Marshland; Mines, quarries, and pits; Minor land cover/uses; Mud flat; Open canopy short woody plants; Open canopy tall woody plants; Other aquatic habitats; Other rural land; Ownership; Palustrine Wetland; Pastureland; Perennial stream; Personal Digital Assistant ; Photographic interpretation; Practice factor; Primary sample unit; Prime farmland; Railroads; Rainfall and runoff; Rangeland; Remote sensing; Reservoir (land type); Ridge roughness; Riverine System; Riverwash; Row crops; Rural transportation land; Saline deposits; Salt flats; Sample point; Sand dunes; Sheet and rill erosion; Short woody plants; Silviculture; Slope (land type); Slope length; Slope-length factor; Slope-steepness factor ; Small built-up areas; Small streams; Small water bodies; Soil erodibility factor; Soil erodibility index; Soil loss tolerance factor ; Soil survey; Stream (land type); Tall woody plants; Universal soil loss equation; Unsheltered distance; Uplands (land type); Urban and built-up areas; Vegetative cover; Water (land type); Water areas; Water body; Water spreading; Wetlands (land type); Wetland losses; Wind erodibility group; Wind erosion; Wind erosion equation;

  1. NPS Listing of Acreage 9/30/2008