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Ash Meadows

Refuge Habitat

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), located 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, NV encompasses over 22,000 acres of spring-fed wetlands and alkaline desert uplands. The Refuge is a major discharge point for a vast underground aquifer system stretching 100 miles to the northeast. Water-bearing strata comes to the surface in more than 30 seeps and springs, providing a rich and complex variety of habitats. Over 10,000 gallons per minute flow year round, most of which comes from seven major springs: Fairbanks, Rogers, Longstreet, Crystal, Point of Rocks, Jackrabbit, and Big Springs. The reason for this abundance of water in an otherwise dry and desolate region is the presence of a geological fault. The movement of this particular fault acts as an "underground dam," blocking the flow of water and forcing it to the surface. The water arriving at Ash Meadows is called "fossil" water, because it is believed to have entered the ground water system thousands of years ago.

Water is the key natural resource that makes Ash Meadows a unique ecosystem in the dry Mojave Desert. Where does it come from? Over 100 miles to the northeast, water enters a vast underground aquifer system. This water, also known as "fossil water", takes thousands of years to move through the ground. Ageological fault acts as an "underground dam" blocking the flow of the water and forcing it to the surface into 30 seeps and springs. Over 10,000 gallons per minute flow year round, most of which come from seven major springs.

Wetlands, springs, and springbrook channels are scattered throughout the refuge. Sandy dunes, rising up to 50 feet above the landscape, appear in the central portions of the refuge. Mesquite and ash groves flourish near wetlands and stream channels. Saltbush dominates large portions of the refuge in dry areas adjacent to wetlands. Creosote(shrub) habitat occurs in the drier elevated areas along the east and southeastern portions of the refuge. Eight species of cactus occur scattered throughout the refuge.

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