The proposed Table Mountain wilderness consists of rugged and challenging terrain rising from the Arkansas River to the volcanic tablelands of Table Mountain which form the north rim of the Arkansas River canyon, known as the Grand Canyon of the Arkansas. Elevations within the proposed wilderness range from 6,000 feet along the Arkansas River to 9,500 feet atop Table Mountain. The area is administered by the Bureau of Land Management, which in the recent past acquired a large inholding in the Echo Canyon area, thereby creating a large block of federally-owned land suitable for wilderness designation.
Table Mountain is separated from the McIntyre Hills, a proposed wilderness area to the south across the Arkansas River, by only the US 50 highway corridor and the former D&RGW railroad line which follows the Arkansas River and defines the southern boundary of the proposed wilderness. Although once a heavily used freight line, the railroad line is no longer used beyond Parkdale.
Together with McIntyre Hills to the south, Table Mountain comprises one of the steepest and least human-impacted portions of the Arkansas River canyon. Unlike McIntyre Hills, Table Mountain contains several highly scenic valleys or “holes” most notably Echo Canyon (or Devils Hole) and Spikebuck Gulch, stretching a considerable distance north from the Arkansas. Table Mountain therefore serves as a connecting link and wildlife corridor not only along the Arkansas River, but also to South Park and the Waugh Mountain State Wildlife Area to the north.
Table Mountain provides a wide range of wildlife habitat, from pinyon-juniper woodlands and semidesert shrublands near the river to montane woodlands and meadows atop Table Mountain. It also contains significant riparian areas, particularly along East Gulch in the Echo Canyon area. Rare plant communities consisting of montane and narrow-leaf cottonwood riparian forest and coyote willow/mesic gramminoid are present within the area.
Table Mountain hosts a variety of wildlife, including a resident population of bighorn sheep and a high concentration of mountain lion, and is a bald eagle winter range. The eastern two-thirds of the area are recognized by the BLM as the Arkansas Canyonlands Area of Critical Environmental Concern. A portion of McIntyre Hills shares this designation.
Table Mountain provides outstanding opportunities for primitive recreation and solitude including hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing, bird-watching, and photography. Although the west end of the area can be reached from Texas Creek Gulch via accesses off the East Gulch road, the central area can be entered only by fording the Arkansas River. Most of the east and north boundaries are blocked by private property. Although the Table Mountain proposed wilderness contains a number of old and revegetating ranch roads, it has no current motorized use due to lack of public access.
Grazing leases exist within the Table Mountain area. However, grazing structures within the area are minimal and grazing use is compatible with wilderness designation.
No bridges provide recreational access exist across the Arkansas River between the area’s eastern boundary at Parkdale and the western boundary at Texas Creek. The river corridor between Table Mountain and McIntyre Hills to the south is part of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area which receives millions of visitors, including over 300,000 rafters annually. However, recreational use is largely confined to the immediate river corridor and current river recreation sites are located along US 50 on the south side of the Arkansas. Wilderness designation of Table Mountain would preserve the scenic and recreation values for users of the Recreation Area and hundreds of thousands of motorists on US 50 by providing an undeveloped natural backdrop.
The Arkansas River is excluded from the unit. The Table Mountain area itself contains no perennial streams.
Table Mountain is located to the east of the Texas Creek motorized recreation area. The BLM is presently conducting a recreational use analysis of the area as part of its Arkansas Canyon Travel Management Plan, and there is concern that motorized users may seek to expand the motorized recreation area into the western, and possibly also the northern portion of Table Mountain, or seek to establish a motorized route along the Arkansas River.
An existing telecommunication facility is located on the ridge between Echo Canyon and Spikebuck Gulch. Area boundaries are drawn to exclude this development and its required access, which originates in private land to the north.