Tonto National Forest

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Tonto National Forest
Desert Foliage And Canyon In Arizona.jpg
Map showing the location of Tonto National Forest
Map showing the location of Tonto National Forest
LocationGila, Maricopa, Yavapai, and Pinal counties, Arizona, U.S.
Nearest cityPayson, Arizona
Coordinates33°48′N 111°18′W / 33.8°N 111.3°W / 33.8; -111.3Coordinates: 33°48′N 111°18′W / 33.8°N 111.3°W / 33.8; -111.3
Area2,873,200 acres (11,627 km2)
Visitors5,922,000 (in 2005)
Governing bodyUnited States Forest Service
WebsiteTonto National Forest
A pool of water, a remnant of the last rains, in a dry wash in Tonto National Forest
Unofficial trail sign in Pine Canyon

The Tonto National Forest, encompassing 2,873,200 acres (1,162,700 ha; 11,627 km2), is the largest of the six national forests in Arizona and is the fifth largest national forest in the United States.[1] The forest has diverse scenery, with elevations ranging from 1,400 feet (427 m) in the Sonoran Desert to 7,400 feet (2,256 m) in the ponderosa pine forests of the Mogollon Rim (pronounced MOH-gee-on, or MUH-gee-own). The Tonto National Forest is also the most visited "urban" forest in the United States.[2]

The boundaries of the Tonto National Forest are the Phoenix metropolitan area to the south, the Mogollon Rim to the north and the San Carlos and Fort Apache Indian Reservation to the east. The Tonto (Spanish for "dumb") is managed by the USDA Forest Service and its headquarters are in Phoenix. There are local ranger district offices in Globe, Mesa, Payson, Roosevelt, Scottsdale, and Young.[3]

As of June 22, 2020, a Bush Fire, the fifth largest fire on record, in Tonto National Forest, had burned 186,086 acres in the Tonto National Forest as of Monday morning, with 45% containment.[4][5]


Many wildlife species inhabit the forest including Colorado desert raccoons, bald eagles, New Mexico black bears, Mearns coyotes, Arizona skunks, bobcats, greater roadrunners, prairie falcons, Coues' white-tailed deer, long-eared owls, desert mule deer, Western red-tailed hawks, Great blue herons, North American cougars, North American barn owls, ring-tailed cats, American kestrels, pronghorns, javelinas, and Rocky Mountain elk.[citation needed]

Lakes, rivers and streams[edit]

The Tonto National Forest has six notable cold water reservoirs:

The next four are created by the Salt River chain of dams:

Wilderness areas[edit]

There are eight federally designated wilderness areas within (or partially within) the Tonto National Forest:[6]

A portion of the Verde Wild and Scenic River also lies within the forest.


The Tonto Forest Reserve was established on October 3, 1905 by the General Land Office. In 1906 the forest reserves were transferred to the U.S. Forest Service, and on March 4, 1907 Tonto became a National Forest. On January 13, 1908 the Pinal Mountains National Forest was added along with other lands. On July 1, 1908 part of Black Mesa National Forest and other lands were added, and on July 1, 1953 part of Crook National Forest was added.[7]

Proposed land transfer to Rio Tinto Group for copper mining[edit]

A land swap proposed as a part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act would permit a subsidiary of the Rio Tinto mining conglomerate, Resolution Copper Co., to acquire 2,422 acres of the Tonto National Forest, considered sacred by the San Carlos Apache Tribe, for purposes of copper mining. This proposal, in Section 3003, titled "Southeast Arizona Land Exchange", is strongly opposed by many Native Americans, including the 57 member tribes of The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and by the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Association.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tonto National Forest". U.S. Forest Service, Tonto National Forest. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  2. ^ "Tonto National Forest – History and Development". United States Forest Service. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  3. ^ USFS Ranger Districts by State,; accessed July 8, 2020.
  4. ^ "Tonto National Forest | Arizona Emergency information Network".
  5. ^ Stone, Erin. "As Bush Fire becomes one of largest in Arizona history, water and wildlife at risk". The Arizona Republic.
  6. ^ "Wilderness maps". Retrieved 2012-06-22.
  7. ^ Davis, Richard C. (September 29, 2005). "National Forests of the United States" (PDF). The Forest History Society. Archived (PDF) from the original on April 10, 2014. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ Toensing, Gale Courey (2014-12-12). "57 Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians Urge Senate to Nix Sacred Land Giveaway". Indian Country Today Media Network. Retrieved 2014-12-16.

External links[edit]