We made a stop in the lovely Pahranagat Valley — camping in a cute little RV park in the town of Alamo, Nevada… a little oasis in the middle of the Great Basin desert located about 90 miles north of Las Vegas (an area we never need to visit again). The name of the town was derived from the Spanish word for “poplar” for the presence of poplar or cottonwood trees in the area.
The Pahranagat Valley was a prime refuge for horse thieves back in the day… stealing horses from Utah and Arizona and letting them rest in the lush valley before making the long journey across the desert into California.
For us, the biggest draw was the quite wonderful Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, one of several refuges located in southern Nevada — and part of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex. (National Wildlife Refuges never disappoint us in their beauty, mission, and solitude!)
Established in 1963, this 5,380-acre park, one of the few wetland habitats in southern Nevada, is an important part of the Pacific Flyway — the path migratory birds (especially waterfowl) fly in spring and fall as they travel between food sources and breeding grounds — serving both as a resting spot for some species as well as a wintering habitat for others.
While the lakes are now spring-fed, at one time the White River flowed widely and deeply here. When we visited, the water levels were low and we saw numerous fish carcasses on the shorelines, as well as struggling fish in the waters. That said, because of the lakes and marshes, more 260 species of birds have been reported on the refuge, including the critically endangered Southwest Willow Flycatcher.
The refuge has a sparkling (and fairly new) visitor center, but it is only open Thursday-Sunday, so plan accordingly. The short video is informative and well-produced and the displays both fun and educational.
A number of free camping sites are also available at the refuge on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you’re interested in exploring the refuge on foot, as we did, the park offers about 9 miles of hiking trails. We enjoyed the Upper Lake Trail (about 3 mile loop), Cabin Trail (.8-mile RT), and the Pahranagat Loop (.4-mile).
Next up for us is a quick stop in Tonopah, Nevada, on our way to Lee Vining, California, and Yosemite National Park and other adventures!