50 Wilderness Sites Across America
A saguaro cactus grows near Baboquivari Peak (© David Muench/Corbis)
Kitt Peak, an observatory located south of the Baboquivari Wilderness on the Tohono O'odham reservation in the early evening. (© Science Photo Library/Corbis)
A man dances at a powwow during the annual rodeo and carnival on the Tohono O'odham Native American reservation (© Brendan Hoffman/Corbis)
A basket featuring the image of I'itoi or I'ithi, who lives in a cave on Baboquivari Mountain, according to O'odham cosmology (© Danny Lehman/Corbis)
The Tohono O’odham believe Baboquivari Peak to be the center of the universe. "Sunset at the center of the universe" by Alex Derr (Courtesy of Alex Derr via Flickr)

Baboquivari Peak Wilderness

Scenic desert, rock climbing, splendid vistas

smithsonian.com

Location: Arizona
Size: 2,040 acres
Year Designated: 1990
Fast Fact: Baboquivari Peak is considered the center of the universe to the Tohono O'odham people—but due to reservation boundaries, the land no longer belongs to them.

Though it’s the smallest designated wilderness area in Arizona, the Baboquivari Peak Wilderness is of great importance to the Tohono O’odham people, who have lived in southwest Arizona for hundreds of years. According to Tohono O’odham cosmology, Baboquivari Peak represents the center of their universe, and is also the home of I'itoli, their Rock God and creator.

The entire wilderness area is at a relatively high elevation, ranging from 4,500 feet to 7,730 feet. Due to its elevation, a range of unique flora and fauna can be found in the wilderness area, from saguaro and paloverde at lower elevations to oak and walnut trees at higher elevations. 

Though it remains a crucial part of the Tohono O’odham culture, Baboquivari Peak is not actually a part of their reservation. When the boundaries of the Tohono O’odham reservation were first created in 1916, the peak was excluded. In 1990, the Bureau of Land Management took over control of the area, and since the late 1990s, the Tohono O’odham have been actively trying to reclaim their sacred peak as part of their reservation.

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus