Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Nevada > Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Ash Meadows is an unusual wetland region with springs, small reservoirs and streams at the lower end of Amargosa Valley, for most of the year a very hot and dry area at the edge of the Mojave Desert. It is just 9 miles from Death Valley Junction, near the southeast entrance to Death Valley National Park and includes a small isolated section of the park - Devils Hole, a flooded cave entrance which provides the only remaining habitat for an endangered species of pupfish. The meadows are protected as a national wildlife refuge principally for the many types of birds found there, but they also support fish, lizards and various mammals, and provide the sole US habit for no fewer than 24 species. There are many springs and seeps spread over the 22,000 acres - pretty pools with clear bluish water, and also some lakes which although not especially attractive do have warm water bordered by flat beaches, good places to spend a couple of hours on a warm summers day.


The meadows are just a couple of miles from the California border, close to NV 373/CA 127, and are reached by a side road off here to the east. The approach is rather unpromising, across scrubland with mud/salt flats, sand dunes and scattered dry-looking bushes. The road is quite straight and becomes unpaved and dusty. Other tracks branch off at right angles leading to lakes and springs, of which the closest, and best to see first is Crystal Spring, next to the refuge headquarters. A half mile raised boardwalk follows a small reed-filled stream, a narrow strip of greenery in the surrounding arid terrain, and ends at an unexpectedly beautiful spring - a pool of clear, blue-green water several meters deep and about 8 meters across, with various ducks and other birds in residence. It has a white sandy floor and some bright green algae, all quite reminiscent of the enticing hot pools of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Other Sites

The Ash Meadows refuge has up to 40 springs of varying sizes, spread over several miles of the desert, plus several reservoirs, at least one of which (Crystal Reservoir) is available (free) for swimming and boating. Other notable sites include Point of Rocks Springs - several sparkling pools at the base of exposed, cacti-covered limestone terraces, and Rodgers Spring, a large pool towards the north of the refuge.

Devils Hole

In the northeast corner of Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, at the base of a range of barren hills, lies Devils Hole, officially part of Death Valley National Park. The hole is a sheer-sided cavity in the rocks about 30 feet deep and forms the entrance to a flooded cave system, but is not very interesting to look at and not well signposted, perhaps as tourists are not really meant to visit. The site contains rusty scientific monitoring equipment and is enclosed by a high security fence to prevent anyone disturbing the endangered Devils Hole pupfish that inhabit the murky waters below - their population fluctuates between about 500 in summer and 200 in winter. The pupfish exist only in eight very isolated pockets of moisture in the Mojave Desert, remnants of much wetter times long gone, and all are now endangered. It is rather sad to think that this one species lives only in this dull, algae-filled pool at the bottom of a hole in a dusty, unknown part of the desert.

Highlights: Little visited wetland region of springs, streams and reservoirs, home to rare plant and animal species including the Devils Hole pupfish. Surrounded by arid, desert flatland
Nearest city with hotels: Pahrump, 20 miles
Management: USFS
Location: 36.425, -116.291 (Devils Hole)
Seasons: All year, though summers are very hot

Ash Meadows - Photographs

Death Valley Junction
Spring at Point of Rocks

Crystal Reservoir
Duck at Crystal Spring

Devils Hole
Nearby places Similar places

Death Valley National Park (30 miles) - starkly beautiful desert wilderness

Red Rock Canyon (70 miles) - eroded red cliffs, canyons and rock formations near Las Vegas
Nearby places Similar places

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico - diverse riparian area along the Rio Grande
Ash Meadows NWR is part of the California Deserts itinerary

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