Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge: Juxtaposition of life adjacent Death Valley

Tens of thousands of years ago. Way way back in the BCE. High atop a mountain like, say, Mount Charleston near current day Las Vegas, snow falls.

Flash forward today. Those same fossils-old snow molecules glisten in the meadow before you…

Our drive through the dry Mojave desert led into Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, home of fossil water. We stopped for the entrance signage:



From the Funeral Mountains of Death Valley we came. Then we went #where-the-desert-springs-to-life.

Beyond the Boardwalk, down by the springs…

This refuge offers a modern Visitor’s Center with shaded parking. A lot of displays inform, then it’s out the back door onto the main feature trail.

At first it seemed it would be a BORED walk. But not for long, as the true colors of this largest remaining desert oasis shone through.

And the signage mentions tarantulas. Who wouldn’t become wary?

  • Looks like a duck floating on a greenish spring.
  • duck like bird swimming in a pond
  • Fly on stalk in spring
  • jackrabbit sitting on the sand
  • sign describing Life in Crystal Spring
  • black bird white belly sitting on a branch
  • sign describing the uniqueness of the meadow
  • red swamp crayfish in a spring
  • reeds along the spring
  • sign titled Timing is Everything
  • clear blue spring
  • creek feed by spring
  • underwater plants visible through the clear spring water
  • white wildflower

We spied some old coots, a jackrabbit and crawdaddies. Still on bucket list: tarantula in the wild.

Short hike on to the Longstreet

The namesake of the casino and RVoyager’s campsite, Jack Longstreet led a legendary wild west life. This colorful character cut a few too many notches in his gun and had to become scarce.

Longstreet built a cabin over a cave near a spring that would eventually take on his name and describe his legacy.

  • Info about Longstreet, the cabin, the trail, and a carving of Longstreet. Jack Longstreet epitomized the Wild West. He settled in the desert to avoid the law.
  • Bees in a hive in a rock formation along the trail
  • Bill in the cabin doorway.
  • View inside the Longstreet cabin, a blank wall with a cut out wooden cupboard area.
  • Side view of cabin, Bill reading a sign about the rebuilding of the cabin
  • Sign about the rebuilding done based on old photos.
  • Close up of algae and marsh greenery with spring water in background
  • 16 gallons per second and other details such as 78 degrees F temperature details on sign about Longstreet Spring
  • Overview of the greenery and pond.
  • Rear of cabin with rocky ledges

Devils Hole: Not the river Styx but possible highway to hell

About 500 feet of water fill the cavern entrance that leads to unexplored and unknown depths. Seems like a great place to stick the Devil moniker.

Another short hike leads to this nondescript slit in the canyon wall. Gadgets grab data from its sides. Big brother’s watching and the area remains fenced off to protect us from the Devil himself?

Of course not. Here fencing protects the protagonist of the conservation story — the devils hole pupfish. As humans tapped the aquifer lower, the breeding zone rose above water level.

The Supreme Court intervened to save these rare and endangered fish. And some technicalities helped annex this strange feature and its creatures into the Death Valley National Park system.

  • Devils hole foot traffic only sign against desert backdrop
  • Cactus clingers hover above the passage.
  • Red bud, green leaved vegetation growing out of rocks
  • Aerial view of this not very large waterfilled slit in the canyon wall
  • Yellow bud bush on canyon wall of Devils Hole, Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
  • Gauges at water level close up, also some algae
  • Needles backlit against canyon backdrop.
  • View midway up the rock
  • Sign about Tsunami that happens to the water when there's an earthquake

Imagine this dark hole turning Tsunami for no reason at all. You might find it hard to believe the cause is an earthquake on thousands of miles away. Who knew?

What’s the Point of these rocks?

For the most part signage teaches us and identifies what we encounter, like this trailhead sign. But the next sign — a cultural sign — left us asking, What rock features?

  • sign telling about Point of Rocks
  • Sign about the past cultures
  • Mountain
  • The namesake tree and a sign describing it
  • Ridge of rocks
  • spring water
  • sign telling about then and now

The Point of Rocks Springs hike offers exceptional views as the sun droops lower to give the landscapes that magic glow.

Last stop: Reservoir

Hard to believe that humans would mess with mother nature. And yet, here we found damming evidence. But no memory of when this happened.

We do know that at some point prior to 1984, developers planned to convert these springs from mere oasis home of up to 30 endemic and endangered species… into a city. Or something like that. Whatever.

  • mountains across a reservoir of water
  • purple flowers on a plant
  • Mountains in the distance across the reservoir
  • purple flowers
  • Shoreline of Reservoir
  • purple flower
  • Bill on shoreline for scale
  • salt formation in sand
  • adventure travelers AJ and Bill beside a body of water

Seeing the salt bubble up from footprints it became clear to us that only special kinds of life will thrive here. So again we want to thank the special kinds of people — conservationists — who fight the good fight to keep places like this one out of the clutches of condo construction.

Ash Meadows NWR
Amargosa Valley, NV

775-372-5435
Ash Meadows NWR

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