Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
Sign at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Located within the Pacific Flyway, the 5,380-acre Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge provides high quality wintering and migration habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. The property is located at the southern end of the Pahranagat (Paiute, meaning "a valley of shining waters") Valley in Lincoln County, about 90 miles north of Las Vegas, Nevada.

This is an area that often sees peregrine falcons, bald eagles and southwestern willow flycatchers in the air and desert tortoise on the ground (all either threatened or endangered species). While the lakes and marshes of Pahranagat are a rare sight in this part of Nevada, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is working on the property to restore the wetlands and desert upland habitats to the way they were before the European settlers first arrived.

More than 230 species of birds have been documented at Pahranagat in the different seasons. The diversity and abundance are greatest during the spring and fall migrations, of course.

There are several large springs flowing up the valley to the north of Pahranagat. That's the source of the water in the impoundments here. Most birds congregate in the North Marsh/Upper Lake area, where most of the water is usually stored. During the summer, water is let loose from Upper Lake to irrigate croplands scattered down the valley around the lower lakes, ponds and marshes and to raise the water levels in those lower ponds and marshes. The valley here was made by the White River, a river that flows into the underground well north of Pahranagat, surfaces at Pahranagat and then sinks back below ground as it exits Pahranagat. Very rarely will you find water flowing below Maynard Lake at the south end of the refuge.

As much as bird watching is an obvious activity to enjoy at Pahranagat NWR, fishing is allowed in most areas and hunting (in season) is allowed in some areas, too. Along the east shore of Upper Lake are several picnic areas and camping sites. From north to south, the refuge is about ten miles long but there isn't much in the way of hiking trails. There is the main highway and a few refuge access roads but there aren't any marked and/or maintained hiking trails. What isn't wet is populated with rabbits, squirrels and small rodents. Get up the hill outside the refuge boundaries and you're liable to find mule deer, pronghorn antelope, bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions.

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge stretches about 10 miles in a narrow strip along the valley floor encompassing 2 lakes, 2 large marshes, several smaller wetlands and the surrounding desert uplands. Most folks come here for camping, picnicking, fishing, wildlife observation, photography and hunting (in the fall).

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge is administered as part of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada
One of the big marshes at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge map
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge map
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge area mapDelamar Mountains WildernessSouth Pahroc Range WildernessMeadow Valley Range WildernessClover Mountains WildernessTunnel Spring WildernessElgin School HouseBeaver Dam State Park
Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge area map logo
Upper photo courtesy of Georgia Dale Griffiths © 2004, via
Other photos and map courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
Area map courtesy of National Geographic Topo!
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