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Birding Around the Pahranagat Valley
Birding Around the Pahranagat Valley

The Pahranagat Valley, located about 90 miles northeast of Las Vegas on Highway 93, has some great birding during winter and migration. This is a place to see waterfowl such as ducks, geese, and swans, plus cranes during migration and hawks during winter. The centerpiece of the area is the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge with a series of lakes of differing depths, miles of cottonwood trees, and extensive cattail marshes. Warblers and other passerines can be abundant in the trees around the ponds, and this can be a good place for watching dragonflies.

Birding Around the Pahranagat Valley

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge. Administered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, this refuge covers 5,380 acres along a ten-mile stretch of Pahranagat Valley. The refuge includes a spring-fed riparian valley corridor with a series of broad, shallow lakes, brushy thickets, bulrush and cattail marshes, native grass meadows, and large cottonwood trees, all of which are surrounded by Mojave Desert scrub. These wetlands in the desert support a great variety of wildlife, and the refuge is an important wintering area and stop-over point for waterfowl and other migratory birds. This is also a good place to see dragonflies.

Ash Spring. A riparian area with water and trees in the Mojave Desert. The riparian area is fenced off with big "no trespassing" signs along the highway, but you can look over or through the fence to see the birds. This is not a destination, but rather one of several birding sites in the Pahranagat Valley to visit as a group or on the way to somewhere else.

Crystal Spring. A riparian area with warm springs, clear water, trees, shrubs, and grass in the desert. The spring is on private property, but there is a gap in the fence that invites people in. This is a great little place to bird, but please respect the property owner by not trashing the place. It would be a shame to see "no trespassing" signs go up. This is not a destination, but rather one of several birding sites in the Pahranagat Valley to visit as a group or on the way to somewhere else.

Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area. Two small lakes just south of Hiko. Nesbitt, the northern lake, is broad and relatively deep with open water all year and an extensive marshy area at the northern end. Frenchy, the southern lake, is broad and shallow with open water only during some years, but when it is wet, there is an extensive marsh around the entire lake.


The Pahranagat Valley is located about 90 miles northeast of Las Vegas. To get there from Las Vegas, drive north on Highway I-15 for 21.7 miles to Highway 93 (Exit 64) (Table 1, Site 674). Exit the Interstate, turn left onto Highway 93, and drive north for about 70 miles to the town of Alamo (Site 675), which is in the heart of the Pahranagat Valley.


Limited services in the Pahranagat Valley include gas, food, and lodging at Alamo, and a gas station at Ash Spring. Hiko has no services. There are eight campsites along the eastern shore of Upper Pahranagat Lake, and the Alamo Inn Motel is a low-end, but clean place for a quick overnight.

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
0444 Highway 93 at Ash Spring 37.4609 115.1930 659818 4147331 3,700 Yes
0674 I-15 at Hwy 93 36.3809 114.8909 689188 4028063 2,232 Yes
0675 Highway 93 at Alamo 37.3646 115.1596 662974 4136909 3,452 Yes

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 150709

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