Sometimes you stumble upon things and are rewarded. On our way to Death Valley we passed a sign for a wildlife refuge and decided to visit it later on our way towards Vegas. Ash Meadows is over 23,000 acres of spring-fed wetlands and desert land. Fact: It has the greatest concentration of endemic life in the United States and the second greatest in North America! Approximately 10,000 years ago, large lakes and rivers were common in S. Nevada. As the climate warmed (yes this is a real thing), these waters began to dry up and leave behind isolated species within and around the leftover bodies of water. Over 100 miles NE, water enters a giant aquifer system and moves SLOWLY through the ground. A geologic fault acts as a kind of damn and partially blocks the flow of water, forcing it to the surface into over 50 springs.
First up was our interest in seeing the pupfish. It dates back over 135 million years and is endangered. The fish is on omnivore and can survive in an inch or less of water. Remarkably they have adapted to live in water as warm as 98 degrees! We walked out Point of Rocks to Kings Spring and were easily able to spot the bright blue males swimming around.
Next we hiked out to the Devils Hole but honestly, that was a bit disappointing because you can’t get close enough to see the water. We moved on to Crystal Reservoir. Whoa, this place was beautiful! There wasn’t anyone else there and we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch along the water and marveled at how pretty and quiet it was. Next was Peterson Reservoir which had pretty low water levels but was surrounded by marsh grasses for days.
Longstreet Spring and Cabin was our next stop. It’s named for Jack Longstreet who was a bit of a man of mystery. Jack was a prospector, rancher, saloon keeper, and hired gun. He lived amongst the Shoshone and Southern Paiute peoples and built the stone cabin alongside the springs back in the late 1800’s. Looking down at the bottom, you could see the source where it looked like the sand was boiling up. According to the sign board, these springs produce 16 gallons of water a second!!!
Our last stop was the Visitor Center and the boardwalk out to Crystal Springs. The Visitor Center is VERY nice with lots of information on the refuge. We took the boardwalk path out to the springs and once again, marveled at the amount of water. The springs here produce 2800 gallons per minute and the water runs all the way to Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park. You can find our previous blog post about that here.
I highly recommend checking out this park if you’re ever in the area.