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Birding Around the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
and Warm Springs Preserve
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Moapa Valley NWR
I-15 at Moapa NWR turnoff northbound (Exit 90)

Description

The Moapa Valley is a broad, flat area set in dry Mojave Desert Scrub between two limestone mountains ranges. Water emerges from several springs, including hot springs at about 88°F, in the upper end of the valley to create a fairly large riparian area. Water from the springs converges downstream to form a fairly large stream (the Moapa River). People have lived in the area for thousands of years, and much of the land is now used for farms or pasture. Much of the rest of the valley is thickets of fan palms, date palms, and honey mesquite.

Link to map.

Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Moapa National Wildlife Refuge (view S)

At the upper end of the valley, the US Fish and Wildlife Service manages the Moapa National Wildlife Refuge (116 acres), and the Southern Nevada Water Authority manages the Warm Springs Preserve (1,218 acres). The road between the two areas provides birding opportunities for people willing to look through the fence. Clark County also controls a small (40 acres) natural area.

The Wildlife Refuge (south of the road) was an old resort with hot springs, pools, buildings, palm trees, and brushy thickets. This area is open to the public when staff are on site (usually weekends), and the USFWS has been working to restore the oasis.

The Warm Springs Preserve (north of the road) was part of the resort, and the Water Authority is working to restore the area with plans to open it to the public.

Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Birding along the road; watch for cars! (view N)

The Upper Moapa Valley suffered a huge fire that killed many of the palms and cleared out many of the shrub thickets. The area is now more open, so it might actually be easier to bird from the road.

Bird the area by walking the road, being careful of the traffic. The road is posted at 25 mph, but don't bet your life that people drive the speed limit. The shoulders are narrow, so pay attention to the traffic. Traffic generally is light, so you can bird the rest of the valley by driving slowly and stopping to investigate interesting spots from the road. This is also a good place for watching dragonflies.

Location

The Moapa National Wildlife Refuge is located northwest of Moapa, about 1.25 hours from Las Vegas.

Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge

To get there from Las Vegas, drive north on Highway I-15 to the Moapa-Glendale exit (Exit 90; Table 1, Site 879). Exit the Interstate and drive northwest on Highway 168 for 7.0 miles to Warm Springs Road (Site 898). Turn left (southwest), and drive for about 2 more miles. When you see the chain link fence capped with barbed wire on both sides of the road, you are there (Site 449). Park on either side of the road, or if the refuge is open, turn left into the parking lot.

For some variety on the way home, continue driving northwest on Warm Spring Road until it intersects Highway 168 again. Turn left (northwest) and drive 14 miles to Highway 93. Turn left (south) and head back to Interstate-15. These roads traverse some beautiful desert landscapes. The land south of Highway 168 and east of Highway 93 is the Arrow Canyon Wilderness Area.

Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Hours

The road is always open. It probably should be considered day-use only. The Wildlife Refuge is open only on some weekends and on special occasions, and the Warm Springs Preserve is not yet open to the public.

Fees

None.

Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Specialties

The area is good for desert species such as Phainopepla, Abert's Towhee, Verdin, Black Phoebe, Gambel's Quail, and Lucy's Warbler, and migrants such as Red-shouldered Hawk, Killdeer, Hooded Oriole, sparrows, and warblers. Watch for the endemic fish (Moapa Dace, Moapa White River Springfish) and snails (Moapa Pebblesnails) too. This is also a good place to see dragonflies.

If you are lucky enough to get into the Wildlife Refuge, the new fish viewing exhibit is excellent, providing a side-view of a stream. Looking into the water, visitors can see the endemic fish and snails close-up.

Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Visitors at the fish viewing exhibit
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Steam inside Moapa NWR
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Turkey Vultures roosting in dead cottonwood tree inside the refuge
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Safe parking outside the fence
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Refuge entrance
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Warm Spring Road (view W)
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Burned palms on Warm Springs Preserve
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Stream on Warm Springs Preserve
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Maintenance entrance to Warm Springs Preserve
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Old entrance to Warm Springs Preserve
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Burned palms on Warm Springs Preserve
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Keep an eye out for other species, such as muskrat
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Keep an eye out for other species, such as dragonflies
Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge
Fish Viewing Exhibit
more to come ...

Table 1. GPS Coordinates for Highway Locations (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
449 Moapa NWR 36.7117 114.7135 704229 4065127 1,784 Yes
879 I-15 at Hwy168 (Glendale) 36.6606 114.5734 716889 4059763 1,542 Yes
898 Hwy 168 at Warm Springs Rd (south end) 36.7134 114.6795 707265 4065384 1,716 Yes

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 140313

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