One Of The World’s Longest Underground Rivers Flows Through Nevada

Nevada is home to many amazing habitats but a particularly unusual one is located in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The lovely oases in this area are created by an ancient underground river that is believed to be one of the longest in the world.

The Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge was designated a refuge in 1983 when it was purchased by the Nature Conservancy. The refuge is so special that is actually has international recognition as an important wetland.


The refuge is now managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The refuge is home to 27 species of plants and animals that are “endemic species.” This means they are found nowhere else on the planet.


Nowhere else in the U.S. can you find such a high number of endemic species in one place. In all of North America, the refuge has the second highest concentration of endemic species.

There are three wooden boardwalks in the park. Each takes you to a different spring.


The boardwalks are all wheelchair accessible. They are not open to bicyclists or other wheeled transportation.

The springs in the refuge are fueled by the Amargosa River, most of which cannot be seen because it runs underground.


The river is estimated to be about 125 miles long. It can be viewed above ground in a few areas:

Ash Meadows and the Oasis Valley in Nevada and Tecopa, Shoshone and Amargosa Canyon in California.

The water from the river is known as “fossil water.” Fossil water is groundwater that has existed under the ground for tens of thousands of years.


It’s the unique properties of the fossil water that lead to the diversity of rare animals and plants in the refuge.


One example of the endemic animals in the area is the Amargosa pupfish.

This tiny fish lives in warm streams and pools and was designated as an Endangered Species in 1982.


Crystal Springs is one of the pools you can reach from the boardwalks. The pool is known for it’s striking blue-green color.


The boardwalk to Crystal Springs is a little under one mile round-trip from the parking area. There are plenty of benches to sit on at the pool.

The pools are approximately 86 degrees Fahrenheit and on cold mornings steam can be seen rising from them.


Another area of interest is by the Longstreet Spring, which is named after Jack Longstreet.


The cabin by the pool was once owned by Jack, who was a well-known gunman, prospector and horse breeder. The temperature in the cabin is actually cooler than outside of it and Jack used it to store food.

Longstreet Spring is also called the “boiling spring.” Fine white sand will come up from the bottom which makes the water look like it’s boiling.


You can visit the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge year round, although spring and fall are the best times to visit. It is located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Take the 95 north and then south on Highway 373. The refuge is located about 16 miles east on Spring Meadows Road. Follow the Visitor Center signs. You can also get to the southern entrance by driving west on Highway 160 from Las Vegas, passing through Pahrump. Take Bell Vista Road west for about 20 miles and then north on Spring Meadows Road and follow the signs for the refuge.


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