Mormon Well Road
The Mormon Well Road
Corn Creek Field Station
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.
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.
Sheep Mountain Range Bighorn Habitat
The southern end of the Sheep Mountain Range (the north side of Yucca Gap) is excellent bighorn habitat. Precipitous terrain provides the sheep a means of escape from predators. the shrub covered ledges and slopes provide good forage.
Desert bighorn visit this area most during the cooler part of the year from late fall to early spring. There are no natural waterholes in this locality. During the hot, dry months, they move northward and closer to perennial springs.
Agave Roasting Pit
Roasting pits were used by ancient native peoples for slow-cooking meats and vegetables. Native food, such as agave, was placed in a bed of hot coals mixed with limestone cobbles and covered with vegetable material and/or earth. this cooking method was utilized by prehistoric Native American people including the Southern Paiute, Shoshone, and Virgin Branch Anasazi.
Since limestone looses its heat retention properties after a single use, the cobbles were discarded and replaced with new ones when other foods were to be roasted. Eventually the discarded fire-cracked rock and ash formed a low hill with dimpled center. these doughnut shaped features are also known as mescal pits and midden circles.
For long periods in early geological time, Southern Nevada was submerged under a shallow sea. It was during this period that the materials that now form the north-south mountain ranges on the Wildlife Range accumulated in rock layers.
Folding from earthquakes or movement of the Pacific plate lifted the deposited layers to form he mountains. Erosion has worn off the tops of the folds, exposing the colorful rock layers and patterns of the present landscape.
The steep and generally bare mountain sides are cut by deep ravines and canyons. the large hole at the top of the southeast canyon wall is the feature from which this canyon derives its name. Another interesting geological features is the natural cave located near the mouth of this canyon.
Mormon Well Corral
Located up this road (closed to vehicles), approximately one-third of a mile and to your left, is Mormon Well Spring which was first recorded in 1896. This spring served as a historical stopover during horse and buggy days and was later used as a livestock watering area. The old horse and cattle corral on the north side of the spring is listed in the National Register of Historical Places.
Refuge personnel have installed storage facilities at the Spring to ensure adequate water supplies for wildlife during the summer when the flow declines. Mule deer use this waterhole heavily during the mid-summer and early fall and can often be observed at or near the spring. Please keep your visit short to avoid keeping the wildlife from watering.
Average annual precipitation is slightly less than four inches at the lower elevations. the majority of the moisture is received during the winter and late summer. Late summer showers or cloudbursts are often sporadic, quite localized, and intensive causing rapid runoff and severe erosion features called washes.
The deep wash in this alluvial fan or bajada has been cut by runoff from Sawmill Canyon which extends westerly to the crest of Sheep Mountain Range. Ponderosa pines at the head of this watershed were logged by early settlers from the Moapa Valley, hence the name Sawmill Canyon.
The major access point to the range is through the Corn Creek Field Station, which can be reached by travelling north on U.S. Highway 95 approximately 23 miles from Las Vegas, where a sign on the east side of the highway marks the 4-mile gravel road to Corn Creek.
Before traveling through the range, visitors are advised to check fuel, water, spare tire, etc., and notify someone of their travel plans.
Hints for Seeing Bighorn:
Desert bighorn sheep blend extremely well with their surroundings and tend to remain in small rather widely dispersed groups during most of the year. Use binoculars or spotting scopes early to mid-morning with the sun at your back. Concentrate on looking for light colored parts of the body such as the rump patch, horns, and faces on some of the older individuals.
During the summer, search terrain close to springs or catchments frequented by bighorn. suggested areas include Cow Camp Spring and Quail Guzzler. during the fall, winter, and spring, bighorn tend to be more widely scattered and somewhat lower. suggested areas to look during these months include Joe May Canyon, the Black Hills, and the East Desert Mountain Range. regardless of the time of year, you may have to search and observe for many hours before finally spotting a bighorn.