Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge

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Crystal Springs

Imagine a beautiful, pristine oasis in the Mohave Desert, very close to the hottest place on earth, Death Valley.   Then imagine 50,000 people converging on this oasis, building houses, RV parks, and business parks.  This is what almost happened to Ash Meadows in the early 1980’s when the land was purchased by a land development company.   Since the late 1800’s its been host to a cattle ranch, a farm for cotton and alfalfa, and during prohibition its waters were used to make moonshine whiskey.  It was also a popular place for outlaws to hide out.  The complete area was saved because of the little Devils Hole Pupfish.  Because this is the only place in the world where it lives and it was (is) near extinction, the Nature Conservatory stepped in and purchased the land in 1984. It was transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was deemed a National Wildlife Refuge.  Since that time efforts have been made to restore the oasis to its natural state and provide a place where animals, plants and people can enjoy the natural beauty that is Ash Meadows.

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Photo of Devils Hole Pupfish on display in the Visitor’s Center

This amazing place is overshadowed by Death Valley and isn’t a well known destination.  Google “Things to do in Pahrump, Nevada”, which Ash Meadows is very close to, and it isn’t listed.  We discovered it in a little book we purchased, The National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Southwestern States, by Peter Alden and Peter Friederice.   We don’t purchase many hold-in-hand books but will buy informational books such as this one.

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The roads in the park are all dirt, and probably change whenever there is flooding, but our first stop was King’s Spring/Point of Rocks.  We were immediately impressed at the well maintained walkway out to the spring.

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A green carpet of grass meets you at the parking lot.

You really need to experience staying in the Mohave for awhile to appreciate what a nice change Ash Meadows is.  Everywhere there is evidence of water, as opposed to the endless miles and miles of desert scrub, rocks and sand.

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Mohave Desert

Some plants were still in bloom in November, probably because of the recent rains and unseasonably warm weather.

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 The area is named for the  Leatherleaf Ash Tree.

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Leatherleaf Ash Tree
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Close up of the Ash leaves. We were lucky to see the autumn colors.
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Small trees are popping up, a sign that the area is healing.

 

There are two types of mesquite in the park.  They lose their leaves this time of year, but come spring they will be green and full.

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This mesquite still has leaves which it will soon lose and the bush will look dead

Coming up on Kings Spring we read a sign describing the Ash Meadows Armargosa Pupfish.  Until writing this journal page, I thought the Devils Hole Pupfish was the same one I photographed in this pool.  However I now understand that there are two pupfish in the park, and the Ash Meadows Armagosa is in several warm pools. It is still a delicate species and conservation efforts are being made to ensure its future.

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Kings Spring
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The brilliant blue of the spring waters is due to limestone crystals in the water which reflect light.

 

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This goldfish was dumped here by someone. Park personnel will have to remove it, as it will eat the pupfish we were told.
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Ash Meadows Armagosa Pupfish
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This gives an idea of the size of the pool.
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A few flowers were blooming

Further up the walkway you see these rocks.

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This sign explains that the holes were used by Native people to grind mesquite beans for food.IMG_1715

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This area provides viewing of the mountains.

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From the viewing area you can see another green area.

Because it had rained recently (actually flooded) the dried mud left evidence.

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Indentions from the rain
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Paw print of an animal.

Next we visited Devils Hole Overlook.  Here the little Devils Hole Pupfish live in high security.

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The public is allowed to view Devils Hole from a completely enclosed wire fence.

 

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The endangered pupfish live and reproduce in these waters.  The hole doesn’t look like much but it is part of a huge underground aquifer.

 

 

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This hole is the opening of a huge underground water source. This water, like most of the water in the park fell to the earth thousands of years ago.  It is called “fossil water.”

 

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From Devils Hole you are able to glimpse Crystal Springs.

 

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We finished our trip by going to the Visitors Center.  There were other areas which were inaccessible due to flood damage.

We only saw three cars while we were here.  I’m sure if many of the people visiting Death Valley knew about this oasis they would flock here.  The animals probably like the solitude though, and we enjoyed having the park to ourselves.