birdandhike.com logo
Home | Birds | Birding | Outside the Las Vegas Valley | Pahranagat Valley
Birding Around Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
Birding Around Las Vegas, Outside the Las Vegas Valley, Pahranagat Valley
Birding Around Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
Key Pittman WMA
Key-Pittman WMA Headquarters sign in north Hiko (view N)

Description

Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area includes two small lakes near the town of Hiko. The town and the lakes are located in a broad valley with mountain ranges on both sides. In the bottom of the valley, farmers use spring water to maintain fields that attract a variety of waterfowl, shorebirds, cranes, hawks, and other birds. Beyond the farm fields, the desert rises gradually to the west and more abruptly to the east. The desert vegetation is composed largely of saltbush, blackbrush, desert thorn, with some yucca and a bit of cactus mixed in. This is the edge of the Great Basin Desert, so vegetation common just a few miles to the south (e.g., creosote bush and Joshua trees) is rare or absent here.

Key Pittman is a Nevada State Wildlife Management Area, which means that it is managed for hunting. If you visit during hunting season, be careful and read the signs before entering. The area may be closed to non-hunters during hunts.

Link to map.

Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
South end of Nesbitt Lake (view S)

Nesbitt Lake, the northern of the two lakes, is a broad, moderately deep lake with open water all year. There are cottonwood trees on the south end, shrub and willow thickets on the southwest side, and an extensive marshy area at the northern end. Most of the edge of the lake is bordered by cattail and reeds. Vegetation from the surrounding desert (e.g., saltbush, desert thorn, and rabbitbrush) grows down to the water in some places. Trees are also starting to grow along the east side of the lake.

A good dirt road runs across Nesbitt Lake Dam (actually a low dike) at the south end of the lake. The road then runs north along the east side of the lake to a gate. During the breeding season (February to August), the gate is locked and access to the marshy area beyond is prohibited. I've never been here when the area was open. Restroom facilities are available along the access road on the southwest corner of Nesbitt Lake.

Birding Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
Nesbitt Lake dam (view E)

Frenchy Lake, the southern lake, is broad and very shallow, with open water only during some years. When it is wet, an extensive marsh surrounds almost the entire lake. A road from the south runs up along the east side of the lake, providing access to the water and views of the islands, plus access to the cottonwood grove at the northeast corner of the lake.

Location

Key Pittman is located in the Pahranagat Valley, about 110 miles north of Las Vegas.

From town, drive north on Interstate 15 to US Highway 93. Turn left onto Highway 93 and drive north past the towns of Alamo (95 miles) and Ash Spring (102 miles) to the intersection of Highway 93 and Highway 318 (107 miles) (Table 1, Site 677).

Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
Northern end of Nesbitt Lake (view W)
Frenchy Lake Unit. From the intersection of Highway 93 and Highway 318, drive west on Highway 318 for 0.3 miles. Just before a cattle guard, notice a wide gravel area on the right with Wildlife Management Area signs (Site 0680). Between the signs and a barbed-wire fence, drive north on the dirt access road to another parking area with more signs, an outhouse, and a closed gate (Site 0681). If the gate is unlocked, open the gate, drive in, and close the gate behind you. Drive up to the southeast corner of the lake, and then continue northward along the east side of the lake to a parking area behind the grove of cottonwood trees (Site 0636). The road loops around the north side of the lake, but it may be washed out and impassable for vehicles. The road to the cottonwood grove is a bit rough, but it should be suitable for a sedan if the road is dry. Use your own good judgment.
Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
Frenchy Lake (view SE)

Nesbitt Lake Unit. From the intersection of Highway 93 and Highway 318, drive west then north on Highway 318. Pass a cattle operation and alfalfa fields, then at 2.9 miles out, watch for a wide dirt parking area (Site 0678) on the east side of the road with Wildlife Management Area signs. The gate is always closed, but open the gate, drive in, and close the gate behind you. Drive down the dirt access road 0.2 miles to the dam (Site 0679) and parking area just beyond the dam. From there, drive or walk the road on the east side of the lake. You can also walk up behind the willow thickets on the southwest corner of the lake. There is an outhouse near the entrance gate.

Hours

The Wildlife Management Area is always open, but it probably should be considered day-use only. There are "no camping" and "no fires" signs at the entrance to both lakes.

Birding Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
Frenchy Lake (view E)

Fees

None.

Specialties

Surrounded by seemingly endless miles of dry desert terrain, these lakes provide habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, pelicans, cranes, hawks, and even elk. During migration, watch for swallows, nighthawks, flycatchers, and warblers. During summer, the willow thickets on the west side of Nesbitt Lake are said to provide nesting sites for Western Willow Flycatchers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Turkey Vultures roost in the cottonwood trees along Nesbitt Dam, and on summer evenings you can watch dozens of them flying in to roost.

Be sure to bring a spotting scope.

Nesbitt Lake Unit

Key Pittman WMA
Approaching entrance to Nesbitt Lake (view E)
Key Pittman WMA
Entrance to Nesbitt Lake (view E)
Key Pittman WMA
Signs outside the entrance and "man gate" (view E)
Key Pittman WMA
Key Pittman WMA Key Pittman WMA
Key Pittman WMA
Open the gate, drive in, and close the gate (view E)
Key Pittman WMA
Vault toilets usually are clean (view N from access road)
Key Pittman WMA Key Pittman WMA
Nesbitt Lake access road (view E)
Key Pittman WMA
Popular fishing hole
Key Pittman WMA
Arriving at the parking area (view E)
Key Pittman WMA
Red Rock Audubon birders in the parking area
Key Pittman WMA
Early spring birding: ducks are gone, summer birds haven't arrived
Key Pittman WMA
Red Rock Audubon birders
Key Pittman WMA
Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
East side of Nesbitt Lake (view N)
Key Pittman WMA
Quiet, peaceful times in the desert (view NE)
Key Pittman WMA
East side of Nesbitt Lake (view N)
Key Pittman WMA
East side of Nesbitt Lake (view N)
Key Pittman WMA
Gate on east side of Nesbitt Lake (view N)
Key Pittman WMA
Sign by gate on east side of Nesbitt Lake (view NW)
Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
Returning along the east side of Nesbitt Lake (view SW)
Key Pittman WMA
Pair of Canada Geese
Key Pittman WMA
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Key Pittman WMA
Spotted Sandpiper during spring migration

Frenchy Lake Unit

Key Pittman WMA Key Pittman WMA
Key Pittman WMA Key Pittman WMA
Key Pittman WMA Key Pittman WMA
Key Pittman WMA Key Pittman WMA
Key Pittman WMA
Frenchy Lake (view E)
Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area
Marsh at the NE corner of Frenchy Lake (view SW)

Table 1. Highway Coordinates based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Verified
0681 Frenchy Lake gate 656960 4155236 37.53260 115.22358 3,810 Yes
0680 Frenchy Lake entrance 656943 4155004 37.53051 115.22383 3,810 Yes
0679 Nesbitt Lake dam 656766 4158640 37.56330 115.22505 3,830 Yes
0678 Nesbitt Lake entrance 656407 4158601 37.56301 115.22912 3,846 Yes
0677 Hwy 93 at Hwy 318 657363 4154834 37.52891 115.21911 3,831 Yes
0676 Hwy 318 at Hwy 375 656355 4155179 37.53219 115.23044 3,800 Yes
0636 Frenchy Lake NE corner 657276 4156569 37.54455 115.21972 3,790 Yes
0441 Crystal Spring 656162 4155128 37.53176 115.23263 3,819 Yes
0440 Nesbitt Lake 657169 4159591 37.57180 115.22028 3,840 Yes

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170705

Birding Around Las Vegas Southern Nevada Birds Guide Service Copyright, Conditions, Disclaimer Home

 

Google Ads