When you step over one of the Reserve’s distinctive “step-over” gates, you are entering a special place, a place it is a privilege to visit. Not just another mountain bike trail, not just another horseback ride. You are entering a 62,000-acre scenic wildlife reserve set aside to protect the desert tortoise and other rare and sensitive plants and animals.
A tortoise at the Red Cliffs Desert ReserveAt the merging of three great ecosystems, the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau, the reserve is biologically rich with an array of animals and plants rarely seen in one place. The Reserve contains the most northern populations of the Mojave Desert Tortoise, Gila monster, sidewinder rattlesnake, and chuckwalla – reptiles typically associated with hotter and more southerly deserts, like the Mojave.
A significant portion of the shrubs in this area, such as blackbrush, are more commonly associated with the cooler Great Basin Desert. The conditions in the region are such that several endemic species, those which occur no where else in the world, are found here. The Reserve was established in 1996 to protect a large, diverse, and functional expanse of habitat capable of sustaining wildlife populations threatened by rapid development and habitat loss across Washington County in southwestern Utah. Located immediately adjacent to several growing communities, the Reserve also protects the cities’ scenic red rock backdrop and an increasingly popular area for recreation.
The Reserve spans across the north central portion of Washington County in southwest Utah. The Reserve is approximately 20 miles wide and 6 miles deep. The Reserve is northerly of Ivins, Santa Clara, St. George and Washington City, south of Leeds, and westerly of Hurricane and LaVerkin. The Reserve is trisected by Highway 18 in the west and I-15 in the east. There are many access points and trails for recreational opportunities within the Reserve.