In conversation with other campers in Death Valley, the talk turned to nearby places to visit and up popped Ash Meadows. Ash Meadows is a National Wildlife Refuge in Nevada, just east of Death Valley. It is made up of over 23,000 acres of alkaline upland desert and, as unlikely as this seems, spring-fed wetlands. The name Ash Meadows refers to the abundance of ash trees. Because Ash Meadows is such a unique ecosystem, it has been listed as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty of 154 countries.
Over 100 miles northeast of Ash Meadows, water enters a huge underwater aquifer. This water takes thousands of years to move through the ground, giving it the name fossil water. A geologic fault trapped the flow, forcing the water to the surface into seeps and springs. Reportedly over 10,000 gallons per minute flow year round, from seven major springs.
There are a number of endangered or threatened plants in Ash Meadow, including Zeltnera namophila (Blazingstar), Grindelia fraxino-pratensis (Gumplant), Zeltneraa namophila (Centaury), and Enceliopsis nudicaulis var. corrugata (Sunray). Unfortunately, spring has not arrived yet so there are no blooms or leaves yet.
We spotted a Phainopepla Flycatcher and what we think was an entire flock of Willow Flycatchers, all endangered. Plus, not endangered, but we saw scooting across the desert, a blacktail jackrabbit.
Peering down into this crystal clear water, we were able to see the endangered Amargosa pupfish, small like aquarium guppies, but slightly blue. The literature says the males get bluer during mating season.
The water in this spring was active with bubbling swirling motion, from the force of the flow from below.
And, on another note, on our way to Ash Meadows, look at what we found -- an opera house -- in a mostly boarded up town, no doubt soon to be a ghost town.
" We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one."
- Jocques Cousteau