ASH MEADOWS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
ASH MEADOWS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, established June 18, 1984, is located approximately 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas in the Amargosa Valley of southern Nye County, Nevada. To date, over 23,000 acres of spring-fed wetlands and alkaline desert uplands are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge provides habitat for at least 24 plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Four fish and one plant are currently listed as endangered.
This concentration of indigenous life distinguishes Ash Meadows NWR as having a greater concentration of endemic life than any other local area in the United States and the second greatest in all of North America. Ash Meadows provides a valuable and unprecedented example of desert oases that are now extremely uncommon in the southwestern United States.
Stop by the refuge office to view the interpretive kiosk, obtain brochures, and walk the Crystal Springs Interpretive Boardwalk Trail. Additional information may be obtained at the Refuge Office, which is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (due to limited staff, the office may occasionally be unstaffed during these hours). Opportunities for observing the endangered Ash Meadows pupfish exist at all springs, but are best at Point of Rocks.
Numerous recreational opportunities are available at Ash Meadows. Wildlife observation, picnicking, and hunting are all popular activities enjoyed by refuge visitors. Swimming is only allowed in Crystal Reservoir, however, swimmers will be exposed to swimmer's itch. Please contact the Refuge Manager for additional information regarding these activities. Birdwatching is also a popular activity, with a bird list available at the headquarters or online. An active volunteer program provides additional opportunities to enjoy the refuge and students may be able to earn college credits through an internship at the refuge.
The refuge is still in its developmental infancy. While many visitor facilities are being planned, relatively few presently exist. Be sure to bring plenty of water, sun screen, and hats during the hot summer months. Use extreme caution driving on and around the refuge during wet weather. Secondary roads quickly become flooded and impassable during/after rains.
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a haven for wildlife, especially rare fish, plants, snails, and insects, many of which are found nowhere else on earth. Water bubbles up from underground into clear spring pools as silvery blue and grayish green pupfish dart between swaying strands of algae. Pebbled streams gurgle from small hillside springs, sheltering tiny beetles and snails. The water is warm, the air moist, in contrast to the surrounding Mojave Desert.
Four of the seven species of fish present in refuge waters are endangered; the other three are introduced exotic species. Ash Meadows pupfish are visible year-round at all the major springs and streams on the refuge, but are most visible and colorful at Point of Rocks. Male pupfish take on a bluish cast during the spring and summer breeding season, whereas females remain olive green year round. Look for the Ash Meadows speckled dace at Jackrabbit Spring. Non-native, introduced species such as largemouth bass, mosquitofish, sailfin mollie, bullfrog, and crayfish are being removed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as they are harmful to the native fishes through competition for the same limited resources.
Over 239 different species of birds have been recorded on the refuge. Migration periods are best for greatest diversity and numbers. Spring migration usually occurs during April and May, and fall migration from mid-August through September. During the winter, marshes and reservoirs support the largest variety of water birds. Mesquite and ash tree groves at Refuge Headquarters and Point of Rocks harbor resident and migratory birds year-round, including typical Southwestern species such as crissal thrasher, verdin, phainopepla, and Lucy's warbler. A refuge bird list is available at the headquarters and online.
Over 27 species of mammals have been observed on the refuge. Visibility of mammals varies greatly due to the nocturnal habits of some and to seasonal hibernation. Watch for coyotes, blacktail jackrabbits, desert cottontails, and white-tailed antelope squirrel. Desert bighorn sheep are occasionally observed at Point of Rocks and Devil's Hole.
Reptiles and amphibians are most visible during the spring and fall. Five amphibians and 20 reptiles are known to occur on the refuge. Toads are most visible right after spring and summer rains, when they become very active feeding and breeding. Woodhouse toads are the most common species observed on the refuge. Look for large chuckwalla lizards on the rocky slopes near Devil's Hole and Point of Rocks during the early spring. Snakes are also seen more often during the spring and early fall and become more nocturnal during the heat of mid-summer. Coachwhip and gopher snakes are two of the more common snakes seen at Ash Meadows.