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Ecology: Desert Wildlife
Watchable Wildlife Areas
Fish Slough WildlifeDescription Fish Slough is a lush oasis amid an otherwise arid landscape known as the Volcanic Tableland. It is on the southern edge of the Great Basin High Desert Plateau, at the north end of the Owens Valley and about five miles north of Bishop. Less than six inches of rain falls annually on the area, and summer temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit are common. The rain passes easily through the porous surface of volcanic rock and flows underground. The slough (wetland) is created by three natural springs flowing to the surface from this underground water source.
The water that defines the slough is also the key to its varied plant and animal life, including several unique and sensitive species. The slough and surrounding desert totalling 36,000 acres were designated as an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) in 1982. The purpose of the designation was to recognize, maintain, and enhance the area's unique resource values.
The unusual geologic features that create the underground water basin, also create a colorful surface landscape with abrupt cliffs and volcanic terraces. The warm hues and pastel tones of these features are striking in the early morning and evening hours. Prehistoric rock carvings, called petroglyphs, are significant human features of the slough.
Animals you may see here
Owens pupfish and Owens tui chub can be seen year-round on six acres of clear ponds at one location. Spot the two-inch pupfish by their distinctive "start-stop" swimming style.
Birds: Look in the marsh for cinnamon teal, mallards, pintails, ring-necked ducks, marsh wrens, grasshopper sparrows, ruddy ducks, and gadwalls. Great blue heron, American bittern and northern harrier also use the area. Look year-round for birds of prey such as the northern harrier. Songbirds appear in fall and spring.
Other wildlife: Raccoon and striped skunk use the marshy area. The surrounding high desert habitat is home for numerous species of wildlife. You might see some of the more common animals such as coyotes, blacktail hares, antelope ground squirrels, gopher snakes, desert spiny lizards, black-throated sparrows, rock wrens and mourning doves.
From Bishop, take Highway 395 north to the "Y" with Highway 6. Drive north on Highway 6 about 1.5 miles. Turn west on Five Bridges Road and drive about 2.5 miles. Shortly after the sand and gravel plant, turn right at the information kiosk onto Fish Slough Road. Drive one mile, cross a cattle guard, and travel 5.5 miles to the fenced ponds. Marshlands will be on the east side of the road as you drive to the pond.
Size: 400 acres. The Fish Slough Area of Critical Environmental Concern includes the slough and surrounding desert totaling 36,000 acres.