Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge has significant cultural importance to the Paiute people and has historically been utilized by native people for thousands of years. Numerous sites, including rock art and rock structures, are preserved of maintain their cultural value. Rock paintings (pictographs) and peckings (petroglyphs) are numerous on the refuge and are protected by federal law. One cultural site, listed in the National Register of Historical Places, is thought to have been a place where people sought knowledge and power, conducted ceremonies, and communicated with spiritual beings.
The Pahranagat Valley is also rich in pioneer history. The first settlers were interested in ranching and farming. The natural springs provided an abundance of water with which to raise crops and provide grazing. One historical building on the refuge, the Walden house, is said to be one of the original pioneer dwelling of this area. The structure is made of stone, originally constructed around 1864.
In 1963, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recognized the value of the Pahranagat Valley and designated 5,380 acres of lakes, marshes, wet meadows and desert uplands as Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. Located on the Pacific Flyway, the refuge is an essential stopover for waterfowl and songbirds as they migrate south in the fall and back north in the early spring.
Pahranagat NWR is one of more than 500 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System, a network of lands set aside specifically for wildlife. Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the System is a living heritage, conserving wildlife and habitat for people today and generations to come.
For more information, please visit the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge Web site.
For photography of Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, CLICK HERE.
Seasons of the Refuge:
Each season of the year has its own unique beauty and wildlife activity. We invite you to visit the refuge at different times of the year to experience its full variety of wildlife.
Migrating birds arrive during the spring, to fuel up for longer journeys north, or to begin nesting. Greater sandhill cranes feed in grasslands and wet meadows in February and March. Geese and ducks begin to arrive in March and shorebirds, such as Wilson's phalaropes, stop over in April and May. Early morning visits to cottonwood and willow groves yield views of chorusing songbirds, including numerous yellow warblers. Following spring rains, wildflowers paint the desert yellow, orange and red. Threatened desert tortoises emerge from their burrows to feed on these succulent plants. Other reptiles, including the Mojave rattlesnake, bask in the warm sun after their winter hibernation.
Cottonwood and willow trees line the refuge's lake shores and springs. Riparian habitats (a word that refers to moisture-dependent vegetation that grows along watercourses) are among the most endangered habitats in the Southwest. Riparian habitat provides feeding and nesting areas for birds that migrate here from the tropics, such as the yellow warbler, Bullock's oriole, and endangered Southwestern flycatcher. On the refuge, riparian areas are irrigated to sustain vegetation and promote sapling growth. Nonnative tamarisk (salt cedar) trees, which add toxic salts to soils and use large quantities of valuable ground water, are removed, as are Russian olive trees.
Moist meadows are home to many rodent species. These small mammals provide food for raptors and coyotes. Refuge staff irrigate meadows to provide green forage for sandhill cranes, waterfowl and wading birds. Meadows and other grasslands are sometimes burned or mowed to remove old plants and stimulate new growth.
Since the refuge straddles both the Great Basin and Mojave deserts, a diversity of upland plants grows here, including sagebrush, saltbrush, creosote and yucca. They provide shelter and food for reptiles and small mammals, which are hunted by coyotes, raptors and roadrunners. Gambel's quail, black-throated sparrows, and Brewer's sparrows nest here. Mule deer forage in desert washes.
Birdwatching is a skill that takes study, patience, and practice to master. Pay close attention to color, wing and head markings, calls and songs, size and shape. A bird's behavior can also aid in identification. For example, spotted sandpipers constantly teeter back and forth as they forage along shorelines. Bird populations vary greatly in numbers and species according to the seasons. Heavy migrations of waterfowl, waterbirds and songbirds pass through the refuge during the spring. Greater sandhill cranes visit native grasslands and wet meadows in February and March; flocks of up to three hundred may be seen near the headquarters. The shorebird migration peaks in April and May. Songbirds, including nesting southwestern willow flycatchers and the brilliant western tanager, frequent stands of cottonwood and willow on the refuge. A portion of these spring migrants stay through the breeding season. Broods of mallards and Canada geese appear in May and can be seen throughout the summer. Herons, egrets and other wading birds nest in tree rookeries on the refuge. Red-tailed hawks build stick nests in the cottonwoods. Southward migration brings a second influx of birds, including tundra swans (which remain through winter), geese, ducks, and shorebirds, in late August and September. Winter is a good time to observe waterfowl, and raptors such as bald eagles, ferruginous and rough-legged hawks. Southwestern specialties such as verdin, crissal thrasher, cactus wren, Gambel's quail, and greater roadrunner, may be seen year-round.
Mammals are more difficult to see than birds due to the nocturnal habits of some and seasonal hibernation of others. Small mammals remain active throughout the year, but most stay out of view in their burrows. Watch for coyotes, mule deer, black-tailed jackrabbits, and desert cottontails at the edges of riparian and upland habitats. White-tailed antelope squirrels scurry between desert shrubs during the day. Muskrats swim the shallows of lakes and marshes. Mule deer does and their fawns may be seen in the spring. Deer seek higher elevations in the summer, and then migrate down again in the fall. Be aware that mountain lions are probably present in most habitats on the refuge, but are more common in areas utilized by mule deer. The following list of mammals includes 36 species likely to occur on the refuge. (are you providing a list?) All are considered resident species except the bats that migrate.
Amphibians and Reptiles:
Amphibians are most visible during the breeding season (spring and early summer), in wetlands and temporary pools. Western toads "peep" from shallow waters to attract mates. Lizards are particularly active and visible during spring and summer in desert shrub habitats; most become dormant in the winter. Most of the refuge's snakes are nocturnal, but coachwhips, kingsnakes, gopher snakes, and Mojave rattlesnakes are active by day. Federally threatened desert tortoises roam the desert in search of wildflowers during spring and fall. Visitors should be alert for rattlesnakes. Never put your feet or hands where you cannot see them, such as into a dark hole or rock crevice, and watch where you step. Five amphibians and 25 reptiles are known to occur on the refuge. All are considered resident species.
REGULATIONS PROTECT VISITORS AND WILDLIFE
Three main public access roads located on the east side of Upper Pahranagat Lake, Middle Marsh and Lower Pahranagat Lake. Another public access road is located west of the refuge headquarters which interconnects to the Desert National Wildlife Range. Visitors are asked to use existing parking facilities.
All motorized vehicles are restricted to designated roads only, must be properly licensed and street legal as required by state law. ATVs (3 and 4-wheelers, dirt bikes, ect.) are prohibited on the refuge.
Restrooms and Trash:
Non-flush toilets are provided at the Upper Pahranagat Lake campground area. Use dumpsters provided or take your trash home. Littering is strictly prohibited.
A hunting/observation platform is located within the Middle Marsh area and a fishing/observation pier is located at the Upper Pahranagat Lake. Please contact the refuge for access limitations and suggestions to use the areas safely.
Hunting and fishing are permitted on designated areas subject to all applicable state, federal and refuge regulations. Please contact the refuge for more information.
No swimming is allowed. Only non-motorized boats or boats with electric motors are permitted on the Refuge. The use of boats, rubber rafts or other floatation devices is not permitted on the North Marsh at anytime. Boat launching facilities on the refuge are unimproved and accommodate only small craft. Watercraft must be in compliance with all applicable state and federal rules.
Camping and Picnicking:
Unimproved camping and picnic sites are available along the eastern shoreline of Upper Pahranagat Lake (see map). All camping is restricted to these areas. Camping is limited to 7 consecutive days, within a 30-day period, beginning upon day of arrival. Be considerate to other campers. Please keep noise to a minimum from dusk to dawn. No generators are allowed to run in the campground. Restore your campsite to a clean and orderly condition when you leave.
Firewood cutting or collecting is prohibited. Please bring your own firewood or use a stove. It is unlawful to develop fire rings or build fires outside of provided BBQ grills. Fires must be attended by adults at all times.
Year round hiking is allowed only on designated roads and trails which offer access to wetland, riparian and desert shrub habitats (see map).
Wildlife Viewing and Photography:
As an oasis of water and trees in the desert, the refuge offers excellent wildlife viewing, particularly of birds. Photographic opportunities abound: not only wildlife, but desert sunsets, scenic mountains and spring wildflowers. Wildlife lists are available at refuge headquarters.
Pets and domesticated animals must be leashed or in a vehicle and attended at all times except when used in association with a legal hunt in designated areas. Contact the refuge for more information. All animal waste must be cleaned up.
Artifacts, including arrowheads, grinding stones and rock art, ect. are protected under Federal law. Disturbance of cultural resources of any kind is strictly prohibited.
Animal and Plant Life:
Collecting or attempting to collect plants, animals or other natural objects is prohibited.
Carrying, possessing or discharging firearms or other weapon is prohibited. This includes carrying, possessing or discharging fireworks and explosives. Please contact the refuge for special regulations regarding firearms during hunting seasons.