Places We Protect

Chihuahuan Desert

The setting sun drops below the horizon of a desert lan
Rancho El Uno. A 46,000-acre ranch in northern Mexico’s Janos Valley. © Dave Lauridsen

North America’s largest desert is home to an amazing array of plant life.



The roughly 200,000-square-mile Chihuahuan Desert — larger than the state of California — stretches across six Mexican states and parts of Texas and New Mexico. It is the largest desert in North America and is located between two of Mexico’s largest mountain ranges called the eastern and western Sierra Madre.  

Like most deserts, the Chihuahuan’s weather is harsh, blistering daytime temperatures and below-freezing temperatures at night. Despite these extremes, the desert teems with an extraordinary amount of life. Mountain lions, Mexican wolves, the largest remaining black-tailed prairie dog colony, kit fox, mule deer, Coahuilan box turtle, 120 species of mammals and 300 species of birds are all found here.  

The desert also has an amazing array of plant life with more than 400 species of cactus. The landscape is composed of desert pools and oases harboring a number of fish and aquatic organisms. Some of these, like cichlids and pupfish, are found in these pools and nowhere else on Earth.  

A Fragile Desert

The merest actions on this landscape can disturb its precarious balance harming its life-giving qualities. Ranching is a way of life here and what little surface water exists is often diverted toward agriculture irrigation or feeding cattle. Overgrazing, overharvesting of native species like mesquite, gypsum mining and widespread development are disturbing nature's delicate balance.

Preserving the Balance

To protect the Chihuahuan Desert, the Conservancy is working with local NGOs, ranchers and state and national governments in the Janos Valley just south of the Arizona-New Mexico border. The valley is home to the world’s largest colony of black-tailed prairie dogs. The Conservancy worked with Pronatura Noreste to purchase and protect the 49,000-acre Rancho El Uno, a critical habitat for the prairie dog, in 2005.   




Chihuahuan Desert

Map with marker: Stretching across six Mexican states and parts of Texas and New Mexico


200,000 square miles

Explore our work in this region

A low sun sheds some light on distant mountains, a desert valley, and backlit desert plants in the foreground.
Chihuahuan Desert
The largest desert in North America, the Chihuahuan Desert stretches across six Mexican states and parts of Texas and New Mexico.

Protect the Most Vital Habitats in Mexico

Help TNC and partners protect the people and wildlife of the Chihuahuan Desert.