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Red Bluff Spring
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Red Bluff Spring
Red Bluff Spring
Trailhead parking in Mud Wash (view W)

Overview

Red Bluff Spring is a spring and riparian area with water actually flowing out in the middle of the desert. The BLM has tried to keep vehicles, cows, and feral burros out of the riparian area, but thoughtless people keep cutting the fence. Drivers crush the vegetation, and livestock eat the rest, so the area isn't a nice as it could be for the plants and animals that survive there. Tadpoles have a hard time with people drive through their breeding pools too.

The hike runs from one end of the exclusion area to the other, about 2/3rds of a mile, and as such can be walked from either end. As described here, the route runs downstream through the riparian area. Keep an eye out for small animals coming in to drink and for recovering vegetation.

This hike can be combined with a hike through the Mud Wash Narrows farther down the wash.

Link to hiking map.

Red Bluff Spring
Upper fence, looking into the exclusion area (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ... this is a fairly safe area, but be careful on smooth rocks with wet, sandy shoes. This spring used to be called Bitter Spring and was considered to be a good laxative, so be prepared if you drink the water.

This is wild and remote country without services of any kind (no restrooms, no water, no gas, no food). Bring what you need to survive. Be prepared and be self-reliant. It is a big place and someone will find you eventually if you stay on a main road, but be prepared to survive alone for a day or two, or even longer on side roads.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this hike is short, the area is remote, so be sure to bring what you need of the 10 Essentials. Cell phones don't work here.

Red Bluff Spring
Gap cut in the fence by OHV drivers (view W)

Getting to the Trailhead

Red Bluff Spring is located out in Gold Butte National Monument at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 3 hours northeast of Las Vegas in a wild, remote, and scenic area.

From town, drive out to Gold Butte National Monument. From Whitney Pocket, continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road for 3.9 miles to Mud Wash North Road.

Turn right onto Mud Wash North Road and drive southwest and downstream for 3.2 miles to Mud Wash Road. Stay right onto Mud Wash Road, continuing downstream for another 5.1 miles to the end of Mud Wash Road.

The end is recognized by a signed intersection with Red Bluff Spring Road, which turns left and climbs out of Mud Wash. Park in the wash at the end of the road, which is only a few yards upstream from the barbed-wire fence.

Red Bluff Spring
Stay right off the illegal road (view W)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Waypoint 01), the route follows the wash downstream under the fence. Although vandals have cut the fence so they can drive in, good-hearted citizens walk to avoid damaging the vegetation. If the vegetation comes back, animals will come back too.

A minute or two past the fence, the wash forks. Illegally driven vehicles stay left in the more open area, but hikers should stay to the right on the way downstream (the left is good for the return). There is also an old bypass road farther right, but hikers should stay in the bottom of the wash. Doing so, hikers soon arrive at flowing water and a Saltgrass meadow.

For Gold Butte, the vegetation here is unusual because of the water. Tree species in this area include Catclaw Acacia, Honey Mesquite, Saltcedar (land managers have been working to eradicate this invasive species), and true willow (Gooding's Willow or Coyote Willow). Common shrubs in the wash include lots of Arrowweed and Mojave Rabbitbrush, and there are a few Fremont's Desert-thorn.

Red Bluff Spring
Historic road runs above the wash (view E)

In the meadow areas, the turf grass is Saltgrass, and the upright grass-like species is a rush. Forb-like species include Yerba Mansa and even Iodinebush.

Following the water downstream, low cliffs rise on both sides as the stream flows through a small narrows, and then the stream opens into the main wash were vehicles have been driven. The effect of the vehicles on riparian vegetation is clearly evident as there is no vegetation where the stream flows over rocky sills and form little waterfalls.

Continuing downstream, hikers eventually arrive at a post-and-cable fence (Wpt. 02) that marks the downstream end of the vehicle and livestock exclusion zone. In the wet season, water continues down the canyon.

Red Bluff Spring is a good place to wander about, sit and think, eat a little lunch, contemplate the forces of nature that created such a place, and think about how it will look when the vegetation finally grows back and the birds come back to sing.

Red Bluff Spring
Red Bluff Spring meadow area (view SW)
Red Bluff Spring
Outflow stream along Red Bluff Spring meadow area (view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Bobcat tracks in the mud at a water puddle
Red Bluff Spring
Outflow stream along Red Bluff Spring meadow area (view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Red Bluff Spring meadow area (view SE)
Red Bluff Spring
Red Bluff Spring meadow area (view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Yerba Mansa and Saltgrass in the meadow area (view SW)
Red Bluff Spring
Iodinebush and Saltgrass in the meadow area (view SW)
Red Bluff Spring
Outflow stream departing Red Bluff Spring meadow area (view W)
Red Bluff SpringOutflow stream (view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Outflow stream (view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Outflow stream (looking back up; view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Outflow stream (looking back up; view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Another grassy meadow area (view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Outflow stream run through a short narrows (view W)
Red Bluff SpringOutflow stream approaching main canyon (view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Main canyon with illegal vehicle tracks (view NW)
Red Bluff Spring
The stream runs over red-rock sills (view NW) ...
Red Bluff Spring
... then disappears into the sandy wash (view NW)
Red Bluff Spring
Mud Wash approaching the lower fence (view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Mud Wash at the lower fence (damaged by OHV drivers; view W)
Red Bluff Spring
Interesting geology on the north side of the canyon (view N)
Red Bluff Spring
Dragonfly on a rock
Red Bluff Spring
Fremont's Desert-thorn along the stream
Red Bluff Spring
Interesting geology on the south side of the canyon (view S)
Red Bluff Spring
More interesting geology on the north side of the canyon (view N)
Red Bluff Spring
Red-spotted Toad tadpoles
Red Bluff Spring
Hikers in the main wash where vehicles are driven illegally (view E)

Returning Up Mud Wash through Red Bluff Spring

Red Bluff Spring
Lower fence, looking upstream into the exclusion area (view E)
Red Bluff Spring
Gate in lower fence, looking into exclusion area (before; view E)
Red Bluff Spring
Vandals damaged lower fence; don't be an ass -- don't drive in
Red Bluff Spring
Lower fence, looking into the exclusion area (view E)
Red Bluff Spring Red Bluff Spring
Red Bluff Spring Red Bluff Spring
Red Bluff Spring Red Bluff Spring
Red Bluff Spring Red Bluff Spring
Red Bluff Spring
Water flowing from main spring (summer; view E)
Red Bluff Spring
Water flowing from main spring (winter; view E)
Red Bluff Spring
Vegetation removed by vehicles (view E)
Red Bluff SpringVegetation can't go where people drive (view E)
Red Bluff Spring Red Bluff Spring
Red Bluff Spring
Approaching upstream fence (view E)
Red Bluff Spring
Upper fence, looking out of the exclusion area (view E)
Red Bluff Spring
Upper fence, looking out of exclusion area (damaged fence; view E)
Red Bluff Spring
Returning to the trailhead (view E)

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates and Distances based on GPS data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi) Verified
01 Red Bluff Spring East Trailhead 746324 4038588 1,641 0.00 0.00 GPS
02 Red Bluff Spring West Trailhead 745708 4038350 1,572 0.67 0.67 GPS
01 Red Bluff Spring East Trailhead 746324 4038588 1,641 0.67 1.34 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 161127

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