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Las Vegas

Stories, pictures, and information about a variety of attractions around Las Vegas that lie outside of the main gambling entertainment industry.

Desert National Wildlife Refuge


Short stories chronicling off-road adventures near Las Vegas and interesting places within Las Vegas itself.



Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Joseph Bostic

Date:.........October 31th, 1999
Destination:..D.N.W.R. (north of Las Vegas)
Duration:.....Day trip (6 hours)
Weather:......Clear and mild
Adventurers:..4 (Kendal, Mike, Maria, Joe)



What lies north of Las Vegas (other than the Nuclear Test Site)? We wanted to know the answer to that question. We wanted to know right now! We quickly gathered a group to explore. Due to the short notice we had a small group and small groups have the advantage of being able to easily change their trip plan mid-trip. This turned out to be good because the only item on our trip agenda was to see if we could reach Dead Man's Canyon, that according to the map, was located to the north of Las Vegas within a large area marked Desert National Wildlife Range. 

Maria, Joe, Mike, and Kendal at Corn Creek Field Station

The area we wished to explore was relatively near Las Vegas, so we decided to start a bit later than some of our other adventures. After a quick breakfast we depart northward along highway U.S. 95. According to the map, there were two roads we could choose to take. One led to the Indian reservation and the other led to Corn Creek. We reached the Indian reservation road first, but it was paved and looked entirely too tame for us. We proceeded to the next turn off and thankfully, it was a dirt road. The adventure begins.

Desert National Wildlife Range

Desert National Wildlife Range U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Department of the Interior

A mile or so along this dirt road we reach the edge of the Desert National Wildlife Range. We knew this because of the large sign. In the distance we could see trees and some buildings. What could this be? We wanted to know so onward we go for about 2 more miles. It was then that we reach an official looking building surrounded by trees and plants. Green trees and plants -- very uncharacteristic for the desert. Naturally we stop and check this place out. We later discover that the start of the Mormon Well Road begins nearby.

Corn Creek Field Station

Panorama taken in front of the Corn Creek Field Station

Corn Creek Field Station

This place is called Corn Creek Field Station. It has a display explaining about the area and the wildlife therein. Here is some of what it said...

Corn Creek Springs and part of the surrounding acreage was purchased by the U.S. Government in 1939 for use as a field station for the Desert National Wildlife Range. In the past it had been used as an Indian campground, stagecoach stop and ranch.

Test your desert IQ - Exhibit

Corn Creek Field Station with its trees, pasture and spring-fed ponds attracts a wide variety of migrating birds not commonly observed in such an arid environment. The ponds provide habitat for the endangered Pahrump poolfish. this minnow-sized fish was transplanted here in 1971 when its native habitat at Pahrump Valley's Manse Spring was destroyed. Evidence of man's earlier occupation of this site is displayed by Indian arrowhead and tool flakes that litter the surrounding grounds and the historical buildings located at the northern side of the field station.

More Info about Desert National Wildlife Range

Nature Trails

This small stream connected the ponds together

Nature trail

The Corn Creek Field Station display was actually just the beginning of the adventures here. We discovered a series of nature trails that began at the exhibit and meandered through the ponds and trees nearby.

Along these trails we saw many trees, birds, bugs, ponds, streams, and shrubbery, as well as several signs explaining the history and habitat of the area. 

Corn Creek Spring History

Tranquil pond

A place of gathering

For thousands of years, Indians scraped a living out of the arid land that is now Desert National Wildlife Refuge. Most recently the nomadic southern Paiute Indians wandered here, and like their ancestors, they camped at Corn Creek Spring. Water was plentiful, plants were easily gathered, and animals were hunted as they came to drink.

A frequent stopover

The first Europeans in the desert soon discovered Corn Creek Spring as a place to find water and food in the arid land. The area eventually became a stop for freight wagons and a storage facility for the railroad. The bluff you are on overlooks the historic blacksmith shop and railroad tie house that are reminders of thispast. In 1916, the Richardson family from Utah started a small ranch at Corn Creek, then added a fruit and nut orchard.

A Refuge is born

In 1936, the 2.5 million acre Desert Game Range was established to protect desert bighorn sheep. The property of Corn Creek was sold to the federal government in 1939 for use as the Range field headquarters. The Game Range Act of 1966 reduced the refuge to 1.5 million acres and gave control to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Range was renamed Desert National Wildlife Range.

There were several nature trails and we traveled them all.  There was actually quite a bit to see. The first creature we came across was a lizard. Oh, I know what you're saying, "A lizard, whoop-dee-doo", but unlike other lizards, I was able to get a very close picture of it.

At one point Kendalwas ahead of the group and discovered a very large frog. It was about the size of a small dog. I tried to get close enough to get a picture, but it dived into the murk. I was able to get one somewhat blurry picture.

Just past the frog sighting there was a gathering of insects on a plant, that happened to be oozing some kind of sap. These insects looked like giant angry black wasps. I was able to get close enough to take a picture of one without being attacked. I didn't stay close to them for long.

As I was returning, I saw a very large dragonfly and a very large moth. "Hmm...", I thought. "Large creatures, proximity to Test Site..., naw, probably just a coincidence."

Near the end of the nature trail walk, we passed by a large pond that contained a single duck. This duck was named Ranger. I know this because I skipped to the end of this narrative to find out. The story behind the duck's name will be explained there.

We could also see a school of large bright orange goldfish following the duck. These goldfish were abnormally mutantly large. Naw, it must be a coincidence.

Alamo Road

Convenient sign that gave directions and distances

It was time to head out and toward our original destination (whatever that was). We knew we had to head north. The information presented at Corn Creek Field Station gave us more information about where we were going than our original map. We decided to head up to Hidden Forest road since that is where Deadman Canyon was located.

Strange sign. We couldn't figure it out so we just continued.

Strange sign. We couldn't figure it out so we just continued.

After a few miles we came upon an unusual sign. We couldn't figure out what it meant, so we just continued onward.

Hidden Forest Road begins here

As we were heading on this dirt road we came across a series of small hills that the road passed over. With enough speed we were able to get some "air". Kind of like a roller coaster ride. After about 18 miles, we reach the turnoff to Hidden Forest!

Hidden Forest

Deadman Canyon - Hidden Forest Open to hiking only

We travel up Hidden Forest Road and soon reach a dead end. A dead end that marks Deadman Canyon!

You can't get much "deader" than that.




Large flat-bottomed depression full of Joshua trees.

Hidden Forest road reached a dead end by an unusual looking depression. This depression was long and wide and was chock full of Joshua Trees.

Time to travel by foot. We dismounted, gathered our lunch supplies and headed up Deadman Canyon. The trail was covered with baseball sized 'gravel' and travel was somewhat slow and treacherous.



Second blockage in Deadman Canyon - I wonder if they are trying to tell us something.

After only about 100 yards we come across yet another barrier. This time it was reinforced with large boulders and was equipped with a large chain and lock. It was in a narrow portion of the canyon and was shaded from the desert sun. Hey, a good place to stop and have lunch.

Strange texture to the rocks

While eating lunch, I discovered that many of the rocks there were covered with a sponge-like texture. What is the nature of this phenomenon? None of us there were geologists, so we were stumped.

Gargantuan twisted and mostly dead Joshua tree

Speaking of strange sights, there was a gargantuan Joshua tree there. It was over twice the size of any other tree in the area. It was twisted a bit. You could call it mutated. Hmmm. Very large. Mutated. Naw, probably just a coincidence.

Since it was getting a bit late in the day, we decide to head back and possibly check out other areas. I stopped in the large depression near Deadman Canyon to take a panorama shot.

Kendal discovers a Mylar balloon shaped like a rose. Is it a scientific weather balloon or an escapee from a social event? We may never know.

As we are heading back to Alamo Road, we notice something in the desert. It is bright and shiny and nearby. Kendal jumps out (after the vehicle comes to a stop, of course) and goes to examine this object. It turned out to be a Mylar balloon shaped like a flower.

Cow Camp Road

The regular scenery

Rugged terrain around Cow Camp

Off we go back down Alamo Road. This time we decide to explore Cow Camp Road and see what is there. As we head up Cow Camp Road, the terrain becomes more rugged. This is quite a change from the regular scenery along Alamo Road.



Cow Camp

Eventually, after many twists and turns, the road ends. It ends at a cow camp. Well, rather more like a cow pen. Ok, there weren't any cows in the pen, so theoretically it could be a pig pen, but all the signs said "cow", so I'm still betting that it is a "cow" pen.

Bureau of Land Management Project No. 552 Cow Camp Spring

Heck, even the Bureau of Land Management uses "cow" to describe this place.

The others scramble over the rocks and up the cliff while I take a panorama picture or two.

Mike and Kendal are climbing over these rocks. They are very tiny in this picture.

The cliffs seemed easy to climb. In fact, we weren't the only ones here. When we arrived we could see someone about half way up the cliff. His car was at the bottom -- we parked next to it.

About the time I finished with the panoramas and wandered over to the cliff, the others were returning. I got there just in time to take a portrait of Maria, Kendal, and Mike. The sun was getting low, so it was time to begin the return trip. We went by Corn Creek Field Station, so we took the opportunity to see if we could find the giant frog we saw earlier.

Maria, Kendal, and Mike pose on the rocks near Cow Camp

Corn Creek Field Station (again)

Sprouts Sticker Pods

Kendal and Mike ran off to search for the giant frog. I tried to take a few close-up pictures of some flora. The pictures didn't turn out so well (depth of field problems -- needed longer exposure and higher F-stop).

A very small Doberman pincer


I caught up with the rest and found that they had made friends with a very small dog (about the size of a large frog). This dog appeared to be a cross between a Doberman Pincer and a Chihuahua. He was owned by the caretaker of Corn Creek Field Station.

He told us about the area and how that duck we saw earlier is a permanent resident here. The duck will often times leave to pond to greet visitors at the entrance. The duck is called "ranger" because he fills the Ranger role more than the official Rangers do. Apparently, park Rangers rarely show up at Corn Creek.

The caretaker told us of other places to visit in the area as well. There is a mysterious sinkhole, geysers, and other seldom visited wonders somewhat nearby. These places will definitely be the destination of future trips.

Last of the suns rays light the mountain tops

Mike makes friends

On the way back to the vehicle, some horses come by to see us. Mike makes friends with them. The sun is now setting and we must be off. But not before I get one lst picture of the sunlight touching the tops of the mountains.

The End

Wait... before this story ends, we hid a rock somewhere on our travels just like we did for the Titus Canyon trip. If you ever get out to the areas we traveled, see if you can you find the rock.

This rock was hidden on the trip.

Can you find it?