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
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, Rodgers Spring
, a large pool towards the north of the refuge, and Longstreet Spring
, close by to the south.
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.