Red Cliffs Desert Reserve

Home of the Desert Tortoise

Why You Should Visit
The Washington County area represents a transition zone between three ecosystems: the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Colorado Plateau. As a result, there is a unique mixture of plants and animals from each of the regions, as well as a number of plants found nowhere else on earth. The Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, created primarily to protect and provide habitat for the desert tortoise (listed Threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service), also provides important habitat for other sensitive reptiles, birds and mammals against a backdrop of spectacular scenery.

Just north of St. George, including Snow Canyon State Park.

For information, please call (435) 634-5756 or (435) 634-5759.

Approximately 60,000 acres

The majority of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is located west of Interstate 15 just north of St. George, Utah. A smaller portion of the reserve is east and south of I-15, just north of Hurricane, UT.

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
When the desert tortoise was listed as Threatened in an emergency action by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the early 1990’s, The Nature Conservancy joined with Washington County and many other partners to create a plan (called a Habitat Conservation Plan) that would protect the heart of the Washington County desert tortoise population, the densest known anywhere within its range. Serving on the County’s Steering Committee, TNC participated in the design and creation of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, a 60,000-acre protected area north of the city of St. George. The protection of this area for the desert tortoise also brings protection to other rare and sensitive species – the gila monster, sidewinder rattlesnake, chuckwalla and peregrine falcon.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
In addition to serving on the Washington County Desert Tortoise Steering Committee in the early 90’s, the Conservancy has also worked to protect the dwarf bear claw poppy – a rare species listed as Endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This showy, white-petaled wildflower is now known to exist in only 7 small populations in the St. George area – and nowhere else on earth. Several years ago, TNC purchased a 17-acre parcel at Shinob Kibe, and since then we have purchased another 650 acres as part of the White Dome Nature Preserve - these lands contain the only known bear claw poppy populations that occur on private land. Staff and partners continue to study and monitor this rare and beautiful wildflower.

Conservation Partners
Washington County, Snow Canyon State Park, the Bureau of Land Management, UT Department of Natural Resources, UT School & Institutional Trust Lands Administration, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the cities of St. George, Washington, Ivins, Hurricane, Santa Clara, Rockville & Springdale 

What to See: Plants
Several types of succulents and shrubs can be found at the reserve, including Utah agave, prickly pear cactus, buckhorn cholla, beavertail cactus, Mormon tea, honey mesquite, indigo bush and creosote bush.

What to See: Animals
There are several species of native fish found in streams running through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, including the endangered Virgin River chub and woundfin minnow. Additionally, many amphibians and reptiles call the area home, like the Great Basin spadefoot toad, desert tortoise and Mojave Desert sidewinder. Many species of birds can be found, from raptors and roadrunners to songbirds. Mammals in the reserve include coyote, kit fox, badger, black-tailed jackrabbit and several species of bats.

Conditions may vary depending on elevation and time of year. Desert temperatures and precipitation levels can be extreme, so be prepared with water, food and extra layers! Call ahead for current conditions or visit the preserve's website.


The majority of the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve is located west of Interstate 15 just north of St. George, Utah. A smaller portion of the reserve is east and south of I-15, just north of Hurricane, UT.


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