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Birding Around Torrance Ranch
Birding Around Las Vegas, Outside the Las Vegas Valley Torrance Ranch
Birding Around the Torrance Ranch
Torrance Ranch sign inside entrance gate (view NE)

Overview

Torrance Ranch, a 130-acre Nature Conservancy Area just north of Beatty, Nevada, was established to protect springs and riparian areas at the headwaters of the Amargosa River. The water, in turn, supports rare Amargosa Toads and Oasis Valley Speckled Dace, plus a variety of other wildlife and birds.

Located about 2 hrs north of Las Vegas, Torrance Ranch isn't a birding destination. Rather, this is a place to stop along the highway, relax for a few minutes under the trees, stretch the legs, and spot a few interesting birds before driving on. There are no restrooms.

Please help protect the land, vegetation, and wildlife here. Don't play in the water, as this will disturb the rare toads and fish.

Torrance Ranch
Parking area by the old home site (view N)

Description

Torrance Ranch was a homesite on the edge of a marsh in the bottom of a desert valley. A fairly smooth road leads from the highway to the site of the old ranch house, which is gone. Trails and a boardwalk lead from the parking area in the area, providing access to about 20 acres of the site.

Most historic structures are gone, but a variety of desert riparian (cottonwood, willow), native upland (juniper, pine), and other trees and shrubs from home landscaping (apple, pear, pomegranate, and other fruit trees) remain in the area. The water and fruit, plus vegetation for cover, makes this is a good place for birds to stop and rest during migration. The big trees also provide nesting habitat for Great Horned Owls and songbirds.

Link to site map.

Torrance Ranch
Birding the old home-site area

Good places to bird include the cottonwoods and other trees around the old homesite, the marsh east of the homesite, and the willow thickets and spring pools north of the homesite. Walking into the area, birders will encounter a kiosk with information about the area and a site map.

To the right of the kiosk, a rock-lined trail leads eastward to a sign with more information about the habitat and species that are protected here. Farther out the trail, a boardwalk leads into the marsh where grasses and hydrophilic plants provide habitat for fish, birds, and other species. A line of bulrushes and cattails mark the small stream.

Watch for birds in the sky (e.g., swallows and hawks) and the marsh (wrens and sparrows). Listen for the calls of toads, and look for fish in the water.

Torrance Ranch
Birding the boardwalk (view NE)

Near where the boardwalk begins, watch for a faint trail that forks off to the left (north). This trail will be improved in time, but birders wearing sensible shoes can use this trail to get into the thick of things between the willows and the marsh. A ways up, water and mud force hikers out of the marsh to the west. A small spring pool hides under trees near the end of this trail.

Back at the kiosk, a trail runs to the left and out onto the old highway, which serves as a trail. Just across the old road, a wide gully is partially blocked by a low cement dam. Springs provide a trickle of water that feeds a small pool here with aquatic vegetation (cattails, bulrushes, sedges, needlegrass, and saltgrass). This always seems to be a good place to find sparrows, and keep an eye out for toads.

Torrance Ranch
"Trail" between willow and marsh (view N)

The old highway runs north on a dike that provides good views over marshes on both sides. Primarily on the right side of the old highway, a line of trees and willow thickets along the dike stretches north for about 400 yards. The north end of the area burned a few years ago, but this served to clear out some of the brush, and the trees are growing back nicely. This is a good area to look for migrating birds in the trees.

Just beyond the willows, the stone walls of an historic cabin sit on a little bluff overlooking the marsh; this would have been a nice place to live. Walking into the marsh beyond the cabin, birders in sensible shoes will find another spring pool with fish.

The surrounding area is sparse, dry desert scrub. Between the wet marsh and the dry desert, plant species such as saltbush, desert-thorn, saltgrass, greasewood, and rabbitbrush provide more habitat for sparrows and other desert birds.

Torrance Ranch
Ditch with old check-dam (view SW)

Location

Torrance Ranch is located on Highway 95, about 120 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

To get there from Las Vegas, drive north on Highway 95 for about 2 hours to Beatty, then another 7.2 miles to the access roads. There are no signs visible from the highway. For details of getting to Torrance Ranch, see Torrance Ranch Access.

Torrance Ranch
The old highway provides access to the north area

Hours

Always open, but should be considered day-use only.

Fees

None.

Torrance Ranch
Small spring pool under trees

Specialties

This is a good area to find a variety of desert and riparian species. Check the trees and willow thickets for warblers, sparrows, flycatchers, and other migrants, including Wilson's Warbler, MacGillivray's Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, White-breasted Nuthatch, Lincoln Sparrow, Warbling Vireo, Mourning Dove, and Bullock's Orioles. Vermilion Flycatchers have been seen here. Great Horned Owls seem to be resident.

Check the marshy areas for Marsh Wrens, Violet-green Swallows, Tree Swallows, Red-tailed Hawks, Common Raven, Killdeer, and Lark Sparrows.

Torrance Ranch
Cattail marsh near the north end of the Preserve

Keep an eye out for other species such as Amargosa Toads, Oasis Valley Speckled Dace (but don't trample the marshy vegetation trying to get a better view), and Wild Burro. There are several kinds of lizards here (e.g., Western Whiptail, Zebra-tailed Lizard, Western Fence Lizard, and Side-blotched Lizards). Keep an eye out for snakes too, especially the Great Basin Rattlesnakes that live in the area.

Torrance Ranch
Information kiosk near parking
Torrance Ranch
Map on information kiosk
Torrance Ranch
Birder on nature trail reading information sign (view NE)
Torrance Ranch
Information sign (view NE)
Torrance Ranch
Amargosa Toad picture on information sign
Torrance Ranch
Birder on boardwalk in marsh (view E)
Torrance Ranch
Birder at end of boardwalk (view E)
Torrance Ranch
Marsh and trees (view SE)
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Torrance Ranch
Pomegranate tree with summer fruit
Torrance Ranch
Low dam sometimes forms a pool
Torrance Ranch
Burned trees are coming back
Torrance Ranch
Burned trees are coming back
Torrance Ranch
Burned trees are coming back
Torrance Ranch
Roadway adjacent to home site (view S)
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Torrance Ranch
Fall colors at Torrance Ranch
Torrance Ranch
Fall colors at Torrance Ranch
Torrance Ranch
Fall colors at Torrance Ranch
Torrance Ranch
Desert Woodrat nest at base of tree
Torrance Ranch
Stone ruins at north end of preserve
Torrance Ranch
Stone ruins at north end of preserve
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Torrance Ranch Torrance Ranch
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Torrance Ranch
Birding Torrance Ranch
Torrance Ranch
Birding Torrance Ranch

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 130704

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