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For Immediate Use                                                                                                 Contact: Reed Tollefson, (760) 378-2531
March 24, 2011                                                                                                                   

Audubon Bright Star Wilderness Addition

Audubon California donates to BLM for inclusion in Wilderness

Weldon, CA – On Saturday March 12, 2011, the Ridgecrest Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Audubon’s Kern River Preserve dedicated the Audubon Bright Star Wilderness Addition. Marty Dickes, Wilderness Coordinator, put together a wonderful dedication ceremony and work party. Thirty-five people attended the dedication ceremony and trail hike. A seven person crew from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) along with eight volunteers from Audubon Kern River Preserve joined staff from the BLM and Audubon in creating a new parking lot and hiking and horse trails into the Bright Star Wilderness.

Audubon California purchased 601-acres from willing landowners using grant funds dedicated to wilderness preservation. The property supports beautiful native cottonwoods, willow, oaks and gray pines along Kelso Creek surrounded by a rugged Joshua tree landscape within the Mojave Desert. The area is rich in Native American, mining and pioneer history.

Because this addition adjoins Piute Mountain Road it also provides an opportunity to improve public access to the remote and beautiful Bright Star Wilderness. Kelso Creek has been recognized by the Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area (IBA) because of its great value to migratory and resident birds as well as other wildlife. The natural and cultural resources on this land will be protected in perpetuity through this donation and under the future management by BLM.  

Since acquiring the property the BLM has repaired fences, eradicated some roads, improved hiking access and built a parking area.  With the establishment of the parking area and trailhead along Piute Mountain road there is now easy public access to the Kelso Creek trail. It is a wonderful thing that people are no longer limited to driving up to the Bright Star corridor on badly eroded jeep trails.

In the future, a loop trail may be established via an old dirt road and then up along the eastside of the creek along a fairly well-defined foot/stock use trail and then back to the parking area via another old road.

Wilderness Values

The wilderness areas of the Southern Sierra contain a variety of biological, scenic, geological, and recreational values.

Both solitude and primitive, unconfined recreation are impaired somewhat by the vehicle route left open through the center of the wilderness and by private land on the north. Recreational opportunities are enhanced, though, in association with the adjacent Forest Service lands on the west.

The habitat consists of Mojave desert, cottonwood-willow riparian, mixed conifer and interior chaparral vegetation. Consisting mostly of Joshua tree and rabbitbrush scrub vegetation, this area is an important home for Pinyon Jay and Ladderbacked Woodpecker along with other desert species. Nearby in the riparian woodland desert bird species reach their extralimital nesting range, such as Brown-crested Flycatchers and Bendire's Thrashers.

In spring the area is covered with desert annual wildflowers while fall will put on a show of gold with the bloom of the rubber rabbitbrush. We invite birders, plant enthusiasts and hikers to enjoy the new access point to the wilderness and to take the short hike down to the creek. 


The day was stunning as spring was just beginning in the Kelso Creek canyon. Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

The view looking downstream toward Audubon's Kelso Creek Sanctuary. Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Albert Araujo a volunteer with Audubon Kern River Preserve stands above the newly camouflaged illegal motorcycle trail at the Bright Star Wilderness on 12 March 2011. Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Volunteers from Audubon Kern River Preserve and the Student Conservation Association installed a fence and bypass structures into the new segment of the Bright Star Wilderness on 12 March 2011.

The Student Conservation Association proudly sit in front of the new sign they installed for the new segment of the Bright Star Wilderness on 12 March 2011.

Dave Murray, Angela Powell, Shannon Waldren, Madeline Shields, Marko Capoferri, Matt Falco, Anne Stakely. Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Staff from Ridgecrest Bureau of Land Management: Hector Villalobos, Greg Thomsen, Marty Dickes, and Wayne Tingel at the Bright Star Wilderness dedication on 12 March 2011. Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Richard Rudnick discusses his family legacy on the acreage he, his brother Ben and friend Carl Allen sold to Audubon that was donated to the BLM. Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Volunteers from Audubon Kern River Preserve, Don Davis, Albert Araujo, Richard Bruns, Judy Bruns, Bob Showers, Chana Cortez, Marisa Cortez and Honey the Dog (missing Julie Rowe) celebrate a job well done at the Bright Star Wilderness dedication on 12 March 2011. Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

In the canyon along Kelso Creek.

 Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Looking west from Piute Mountain Road.

Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Looking west from Audubon's Kelso Creek Sanctuary.

Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Looking north from Piute Mountain Road.

Image courtesy Alison Sheehey.

Bureau of Land Management Bright Star Wilderness


Visitors can access the wilderness area via the following route: Along Piute Mountain Road the parking area is 0.6 mile west of intersection with Kelso Valley Road.


From the Audubon Kern River Preserve entrance on Hwy-178 drive 102 feet east and then take the 1st right onto S Kelso Valley Rd. Keep right at the Y with Kelso Creek Road. Total mileage on Kelso Valley Road 17.1 miles. Turn right onto Piute Mountain Rd, drive 0.6 miles to the apiary/new parking lot site on right. 

Wilderness Boundaries

Below find the map of the Audubon addition as was accepted by Congress in the transfer from Audubon to the BLM. The map with Audubon properties overlayed is interpreted from the official Congressional maps associated with the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. Wilderness boundaries are marked on the ground at access points and other appropriate locations with 3˝" wide brown, fiberglass Carsonite® posts. Trailheads and parking areas are identified on the ground with appropriate site signs used by the BLM and FS.

About Audubon Kern River Preserve

The Kern River Preserve is managed by Audubon California for the preservation of one of California’s largest contiguous cottonwood-willow riparian forests and the wildlife it supports.

Audubon Kern River Preserve supporters provide financial and volunteer support for Preserve outreach, education, wildlife habitat protection & stewardship.

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