Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
Located 90 miles north of Las Vegas, the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is an oasis in southern Nevada. Pahranagat, with its lakes and marshes is a rare sight in this part of the state. The name “Pahranagat” comes from the Paiute Indian word meaning “place of many waters.”
Pahranagat, as with many other national wildlife refuges, is located on the Pacific Flyway which stretches from Alaska /Canada to Mexico. Pahranagat NWR, established in 1964, hosts thousands of waterfowl. It is an important stopping point for waterfowl and other migratory birds as they migrate south in the fall and back north in early spring. These migratory birds are attracted by Pahranagat’s 5,380 acres of marshes, open water, native grass meadows and cultivated croplands.
Water at Pahranagat is managed to obtain the most value for wildlife. Various depths of water support the different types of plants favored as food by the different species of migratory birds. The refuge has four main water impoundments: North Marsh, Upper Lake, Middle Pond and Lower Lake. The North Marsh/Upper Lake is the largest and is the main water storage impoundment. Water stored here in the winter is used to irrigate waterfowl food crops in the summer. The Middle Pond catches and stores water released from the North Marsh/Upper Lake. Underground springs also supply Middle Pond. The Lower Lake is the last water storage unit and impounds excess water from the Middle Pond.
The diversity of the area, ranging from desert to cultivated fields, marsh and open water, provides habitat for a variety of birds. Waterfowl and shorebirds are most numerous during the fall and spring migrations. Pintails, teal, mallards and redheads are the most common ducks. Great blue herons, egrets and other shorebirds are found in the shallow areas of the marshes and lakes. Red-tailed hawks, marsh hawks and other raptors are most abundant in summer.
Included in the raptors that can be seen are eagles. Pahanagat is one of the wintering areas both golden and bald eagles. Bald eagles do not have the classic white head until approximately 5 years of age. As such, immature bald eagles are often mistaken for golden eagles. The bald eagle is presently classified as an endangered species.
Warblers, orioles, finches and sparrows are abundant in the cottonwood trees that border theshoreline of the North Marsh and Upper Lake. The cultivated and open fields attract meadowlarks, blackbirds, and mourning doves. The upland desert is home for Gambel’s quail, roadrunners, sparrow, kit fox and a few coyotes.