Monday, February 2, 2009

Desert Destination: Ash Springs

Just off Nevada Highway 93 in the town of Ash Springs, across from the Shell gas station, is Little Ash Springs. An unmarked dirt road leads to some BLM bathrooms, a parking area, and steaming water flowing underneath the cottonwoods.

Next to the parking area is a built-up area for soaking. 

Some signs give a little indication of what's going on: Ash Springs Recreational Site. No camping is allowed, and in fact the sign says that visitors are only allowed to stay two hours. The times I've visited I've only seen a few other people there, but I've heard that the place can be absolutely packed during weekends.

It's not much of a surprise--the water feels wonderful! The temperature varies between 88 and 97 degrees Fahrenheit, and the water flows from 17 to 23 cubic feet per second.
The springs originate from several orifices, although the BLM asks people to stay in the developed area to protect the rest of the spring habitat. With only 1.2 acres in the recreation area, there's not much space for so many people, and trampling and social trails are obvious.

During chilly winter days, the rising steam makes the path of the water especially obvious. The warm water not only attracts humans.

A tiny fish, the White River springfish, (Crenichthys baileyi baileyi) lives in this spring. In fact, it only lives in Ash Springs, and this endangered subspecies only survives where the water is warm, so it doesn't go very far downstream. There are at least three fish in the photo above, each about an inch long. Desert fish often don't get too large because they are limited by the small amount of water in the desert.

The fish swim all over the spring. The BLM held public meetings in November 2008 to solicit public input about how to better manage Ash Springs to reduce vandalism, decrease erosion, help keep trees from falling, and keep the springs accessible to the public. The Caliente Field Office will be writing a development plan for the site. The plan will be discussed at the June 25 & 26, 2009 Resource Advisory Council meeting in Tonopah.

Trying to keep good habitat for the White River springfish while managing the spring for heavy visitation is a challenge. But there's still another challenge--proposed groundwater pumping in nearby areas may reduce the water that emerges from the spring.

Life in the desert is always a little tricky, but especially at Ash Springs. So if you're on Highway 93 and about two hours north of Las Vegas, take a break and check out the springs. The fish are easy to see, the cottonwoods provide some shade in the summer, and the water is enticing. We just have to remember not to take it for granted. 


The Incredible Woody said...

Beautiful!! I will so stop for a soak if I am ever there!

Annette said...

That looks like a really neat place. I bet it's really pretty during the summer.

Germaine S said...

Ash Springs is a wonderful place to relax. Unfortunately the last time we were there there were a few people but an unbelievable amount of litter. It was truly appalling to see so much trash and so little respect for such a lovely area. The people there were soaking and picking up trash, a lot of which was in the water.

The tiny fish just love to nibble on your toes. . . a free foot massage and exfoliation all at the same time.

I hope that this spring will be protected and preserved. It is a true desert treasure.

Dessert Survivor said...

These springs are not well marked. You might have to ask at the gas station to find them, even though they are just across the highway. Perhaps they are so poorly marked because the BLM really does not want more people there. But they are fun, and a break from a really long drive. (If you are driving out here, you are going a long way because there is nothing for miles and miles and miles.)

Watcher said...

Great post! I'll have to work this spot into my next Southern NV road trip...

Angry Mob said...

Beautiful place, but it does get packed over the weekend. my kids loved it. I plan to visit again, but I will do so on a weekday.

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