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Birding Around Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Birding Around Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Spring Mountain State Park
Spring Mountain State Park (view W from highway)

Description

Spring Mountain Ranch is an old homestead with open pastures and large lawns, a large shallow pond, several stands of trees, and a variety of old ranch building, all of which are surrounded by Mojave Desert Scrub and watched over by towering sandstone cliffs. This island of green vegetation surrounded by a sea of desert scrub attracts birds and other wildlife. The different habitats and the interfaces between them provide a variety of places to bird. Water in the desert (including creeks, springs, and a pond) attracts a variety of wildlife and humans. Bird the picnic area, around the ranch house, and along the trails. This is also a good place for watching dragonflies.

Link to area map. or State Park Brochure (3.5 MB PDF).

For more information, see the official state park website.

Spring Mountain State Park
Desert, riparian, and aquatic habitats (view S)

This area has been used by humans since the beginning of time, but was first used by white travelers in the 1830s, and the first cabins were built in the 1870s when the area was used for ranching. The ranch house, a relatively modern structure, was built in the 1940s. The older structures can be visited on guided tours, and the ranch house is open for self-guided tours. Visit the Spring Mountain State Park website for information on the history of the area.

The main area, located near the parking, consists of picnic areas; stands of shrub live oak, Fremont's cottonwood, pines, and other trees; lawns and shrubs; pastures; and the ranch house. These areas attract a variety of birds, but they also attract picnics and other types of large, loud parties. Watch the trees, fence lines, power lines, and open sky for birds, including Western Scrub-jay, Great-tailed Grackle, Greater Roadrunner, Gambel's Quail, Lucy's Warbler, House Finch, Violet-green Swallow, and Red-tailed Hawk.

Spring Mountain State Park
Old ranch house with lawns and trees (view SE)

The Overlook and Plant trails (link to map) make a nice 0.9-mile loop that runs northwest from the main parking area, climbs to a rocky overlook, wanders down by the pond, and returns to the main area through a wooded and sometimes swampy area. The trail begins at the west edge of the paved parking area and runs back along the entrance road. Starting out in honey mesquite and Mojave Desert Scrub vegetation, the trail climbs somewhat steeply to a rocky outcrop formed from an interesting conglomerate rock. The overlook provides nice views of the entire Red Rocks area. From the overlook, the trail continues south to the pond, which can be seen from the overlook. Approaching the pond, note the trail (not the gated road) that forks off to the left -- this is the trail back to the main area. Bird the pond, then walk down the Plant Trail to the main area. Watch for Lucy's Warbler, Rock Wren, White-throated Swift, Violet-green Swallow, American Coot, Mallard, Ruddy Duck, and wading birds on this desert trail with water.

Spring Mountain State Park
Pond with trees and aquatic vegetation (view W)

The Ash Loop Trail (link to map) is a nice 0.75-mile loop that runs east from the Ranch House, down a wooded gully, across a creek, past a spring, and around a big loop, passing under a number of Fremont's cottonwood, shrub live oak, pinyon pine, Utah juniper, and velvet ash trees along the way. The trail starts in the parking lot on the east side of the ranch house. From the metal sign, walk south along the white fence into the bottom of the gully (about 50 feet). Continue down the trail, staying to the right at trail junctions. Cross the creek by hopping across the rocks. Across the creek, the trail forks to form a loop. Take the trail in either direction, as both lead back to the creek crossing. On the way out, cross the creek and stay to the right at trail junctions. The creek and spring provide water for wildlife, and a variety of birds nest in the trees. Watch for Brown-crested Flycatchers, Ash Throated and Western-type flycatchers, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Red-naped Sapsucker, Lucy's Warbler, Bell's Vireo, Abert's Towhee, House Finch, and a variety of other species. Keep an eye out for Desert Spiny Lizards, Side-blotched Lizards, and Western Whiptail lizards too. Seldom seen, rattlesnakes are always on our mind.

Spring Mountain State Park
Ash Loop Trail (view SE)

Location

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is located inside Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area on the west edge of the Las Vegas Valley, about 30 minutes from downtown, but not on the Scenic Loop Road.

From town, drive out to Red Rocks. From Charleston Blvd at Scenic Loop Road (Table 1, Site 0519), continue west and south on Charleston Blvd (Highway 159) for 4.8 miles to the State Park entrance road (Site 0673). Watch for signs and the entrance gate. Turn right under the gate and drive west to the entrance station. Pay the entrance fee, and then continue to the end of the paved road (Site 0323), which is adjacent to the main picnic and ranch house areas.
Spring Mountain State Park
The trees and lawns in the picnic area (view NE)

Hours

The State Park is open 8:00 AM to 4:30 or 5:00 PM (depending on season); the State Park website says the picnic area is open 8:00 AM to dusk.

Fees

Admission for Nevada residents is $7 per vehicle; $9 for all others.

Specialties

During migration, a variety of species are attracted to the trees. During summer, this is a good place for flycatchers, warblers, tanagers, and sparrows. This site also seems to produce Western Screech and Long-eared owls. Keep an eye out for our resident Black-throated Magpie Jay, a feathered friend native to Mexico.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Lake Harriet information sign (view SW)
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Lake Harriet dam (view S)
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Lake Harriet (view N)
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Lake Harriet (view E from near inlet)
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Overlook Trailhead - Northeast (by parking lot)
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Overlook Trailhead - Southwest (towards park offices)
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Sandstone Canyon Trailhead (view W; behind Lake Harriet)
more to come ...

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

Site # Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
0323 Spring Mt. State Park 36.0686 115.4581 638853 3992454 3,740 Yes
0519 Charleston Blvd at Scenic Loop Rd entrance 36.1318 115.4206 642120 3999525 3,681 Yes
0673 Charleston Blvd at Spring Mountain Ranch Road 36.0737 115.4427 640237 3993039 3,600 Yes

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 140320

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