Protecting Wildlife: Big Wash Trail Closed to Night Riding

Did you know that the Big Wash Trail in Oro Valley runs past two important wildlife crossings across Oracle Road that connect the Catalina and Tortolita mountain ranges?  And did you know that the wildlife who use the crossings are most active at night?  In order to protect these species (and to bring it in line with other county trail systems like Starr Pass and Sweetwater), Pima County has closed the Big Wash Trail to nighttime use.  Fish and Game cameras have documented a reduction in nighttime use of the crossings since Big Wash was completed, likely due to increased human use of the area between dusk and dawn.  To care for our local wildlife, and be good stewards of the Sonoran Desert environment, please avoid the Big Wash Trail at night.

From our friends at the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection:

When you take a bike ride on the Big Wash Trail, you get lungfuls of air scented with bursage and creosote. Gambel’s quail flush with their bustling chip-chip-chip alarm call. Desert trails provide both challenge and serenity for bicyclists, and the chance to experience areas of the desert few venture to see. In Oro Valley, the new Multi-Use Trail in Big Wash offers access to one of the best wildlife areas outside of Catalina State Park.

The trail runs through the Big Wash Wildlife Corridor and passes near two recently-constructed wildlife crossings, one overpass and one underpass, used by thousands of animals every year. Wildlife corridors like Big Wash are how wild animals move and thrive in an increasingly urbanized desert. This corridor, an invisible road for wildlife on the landscape, allows deer, bobcats, badgers, tortoises, coati, bighorn, and other animals to move between the Catalina and Tortolita Mountains in search of food, water, new territory, or mates. This freedom to roam is critical for their survival as individuals and as species.

Most of our local wildlife prefer to travel at night or in the cool light of dawn and dusk. Because of this, the trail is closed at night. Disturbance – noise, lights, and human presence – can make animals avoid the area and as a result avoid the only safe passages across State Route 77 / Oracle Road.

Dry for most of the year, Big Wash serves as a connection for animals moving back and forth between the Cañada del Oro Wash and open space north of Rancho Vistoso. It has always been an important wildlife movement area, a key feature in a linkage connecting the Tortolita and Catalina mountains.

The Sonoran Desert provides a beautiful, thriving place for us to live and bike. Finding balance can be challenging where people and nature encroach upon each other. As wildlife adapt to their changing landscape, we can continue to enjoy their presence and strive to be a community of good neighbors in return. Leaving Big Wash Trail to the wildlife at night is a sound policy of Pima County.

Learn more at

Photo Credit: AZ Fish and Game


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