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Agua Tibia Wilderness
IUCN Category Ib (Wilderness Area)
Map of the United States
Location San Diego / Riverside counties, California, USA
Nearest city Temecula, California
Coordinates 33°25′15″N 116°59′09″W / 33.42083°N 116.98583°W / 33.42083; -116.98583Coordinates: 33°25′15″N 116°59′09″W / 33.42083°N 116.98583°W / 33.42083; -116.98583
Area 17,961 acres (72.69 km2)
Established January 5, 1975
Governing body U.S. Forest Service / USDA

Agua Tibia Wilderness, (Spanish for warm water) (abbreviated as ATW), is mostly contained within the Cleveland National Forest, Palomar Ranger District.[1] It is located in Riverside County, California and San Diego County, California. The wilderness was originally protected as the Agua Tibia Primitive Area until January, 1975 when it was added to the National Wilderness Preservation System with the passage of Public Law 93-632 by the United States Congress and has a total of 17,961[2] acres. Between its inception and 1984, the ATW was San Diego County's only officially designated wilderness area.[3]

Its approximate boundaries are:[4]

  • North- SR-79 South
  • East- Arroyo Seco River
  • South- Fray Creek
  • West- Pala Road

There are no permanent streams in the ATW. The highest landform is the Agua Tibia Mountain, elevation 4,770[5] feet.

Though the summer climate is typical of the Temecula Valley—hot, with limited shade, and no water sources—for 110 years, there were no fires in the ATW. That changed in the last two decades, with the 1987 Palomar Mountain Fire, the 1989 Vail Fire, the August 2000 Agua Tibia Fire, and the 2007 Poomacha Fire.[4]

Its pollution exposure is monitored within the San Diego Air Basin.[6]

The ATW is home to rare plants, found only in or near it, which include:

  • Nevin's Barberry
  • Rainbow Manzanita
  • Round-leaved Boykinia
  • Vail Lake Ceanothus

Agua Tibia Research Natural Area

Located within the wilderness, the Agua Tibia Research Natural Area (ATRNA) comprises 480 acres (1.9 km2) of Bigcone Douglas-fir-Canyon Live Oak forest. The purpose of the natural area is for the study of this forest type in the Peninsular Range province. Information on forest succession, long-range ecological changes and effects of resource management practices are gathered. Bigcone Douglas-fir is a relict species and is endemic to Southern California. The Bigcone Douglas-fir population on the ATRNA is unique in its relatively great age, size, purity, placement near the southern extent of the species' range, and for its remoteness and lack of disturbance by man. Other notable plants in the research area are: Laguna linanthus and Hall's monardella, both listed as 1b on the California Native Plant Society's Rare Plant Program.[7]


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