With more than 1.5 million acres, this is the largest national wildlife refuge in the original 48 states. You would have to go to Alaska to see a larger one. It’s under 10 miles from Tule Springs, the resort I wrote about on March 24, 2022, in North Las Vegas. This refuge and Floyd Lamb Park and some state controlled fossil beds that are just as interesting as this wildlife refuge run by the National Park Service will be merging.
This is already a place to discover fossils, and this refuge is a habitat for Bighorn Sheep and other animal species. You are unlikely to see these sheep because they hide from humans and there are only 850 of them in this entire refuge. There are models of them in its visitor center and a good film to watch about this area. Bighorn sheep have great eyesight and can go for 8 days without a drink of water. Their seasonal horns weigh about 30 pounds.
The Desert NWR is at 16001 Corn Creek Road just north of Las Vegas. All roads beyond the visitor center are now primitive and not recommended for the ordinary passenger vehicle. The fossils around here are from prehistoric residents that no longer exist like the fascinating Shasta ground sloth, saber-toothed cats, and mammoths that used to be in this area of the Mojave Desert.
The Desert NWR and its neighbors contains 6 mountain ranges. In some places you can experience 7 life zones. My favorites are the Joshua Trees zones on the 3rd level and the Bristlecone Pines above the firs and 10,000 feet. The area around this visitor center tops out at 2,900 feet, however, so you have to go to a place like Mount Charleston to see all 7 zones unfold. The temperature in this area is typically about 47 degrees in the winter, but it can get as high as 117 degrees in the summer. Being prepared for extremes is a good idea.
The Corn Creek Visitor Center is just off Federal Highway 95. It gets only 5 inches of annual rainfall and was not here until 2014. We were told that a new Tule Springs Visitor Center is on the way. There has been an Ice Age Fossils State Park nearby that will be joining this visitor center to provide one experience for all. This should bring new life, renewed interest, and another attraction to Las Vegas. The fossil beds will soon be joined by the Floyd Lamb complex and the existing National Monument to form one large attraction.
The already existing animal trails at Desert NWR will hopefully remain. They now include a Birdsong Loop and a Coyote Loop. My favorite was the short Jackrabbit Loop near the current visitor center. Also seen on these trails are Pahrump Poolfish. This endangered species beginning with 27 Poolfish have taken up residence here, and can be seen during a walk.
There is a surprising amount of water in the Mojave Desert. There are 34 springs in this wildlife refuge alone if you know where to look. We learned about water in the Mojave in the last couple of years when we visited the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge closer to Death Valley in California. Corn Creek is the largest spring in this area. It’s fed by a deep aquifer and snow melt.
Las Vegas is about to become a much richer experience for the visitor.