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2014 Trip Report- Ash Meadows National Wildlife Preserve

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Preserve

Sunday, April 6

By Glenn Shaw

On Sunday morning at 9 a.m. the group assembled in front of Longstreet’s to begin our Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge tour.  Our first stop was at the Fish and Wildlife visitor center at Crystal Springs. The docent volunteer gave us a short talk on the history and the plants and animals of the Wildlife Refuge. She explained that there are 15 major springs discharging collectively over 15,000 gallons of water per minute. The water from an underground lake is forced to the surface by an underground fault barrier. The meadow is home to many rare and endangered species, some are found nowhere else in the world. Happily living in some of the riparian areas are some exotic fish species that escaped from an illegal commercial fish aquarium that was quickly abandoned when it was discovered by officials in the 1960’s. These fish have adapted so well to their environment that efforts to eliminate them have failed. After following the interpretive boardwalk around the spring area we loaded up and drove around Crystal Lake formed by the springs and then headed for our next destination at Point of Rocks Spring and boardwalk. This is the more scenic and interesting of the two. At Point of Rock Spring you can get a close-up view of the endemic Pup fish living in this spring and there is heavier vegetation for wildlife habitat including big horn sheep.

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Our next stop was Devils Hole which is a separate entity within Death Valley National Park. Here we had the rare opportunity to watch divers doing a pupfish count. The Devils Hole pupfish are responsible for the protected status of Ash Meadows. Because of extensive groundwater pumping for agriculture the pupfish began to die off as the water level dropped. A lawsuit was filed by conservationists that resulted in a 1976 Supreme Court decision that halted the excessive groundwater use and established the wildlife preserve. The Devils Hole maze of water filled caverns have never been fully mapped or the bottom ever found. In the 1960’s two divers disappeared in the maze and the bodies were never found. An unexplained event happens when there is a significant earthquake anywhere is the world, it will create the waters of Devils Hole to ripple back and forth, this phenomenon has been caught on camera.  

     Continuing on our tour we then stopped at Longstreet’s Spring. Jack Longstreet was known as one of the last frontiersmen and homesteaded the spring area and also built the cabin that has recently been restored.

At this point after a busy four hours of exploring the wildlife preserve it was time to call it a day and everyone was then on their own to explore, return to the hotel or head for home. We all had a very fun time together.