Ash Meadows is an unusual wetland region with springs, small reservoirs, and streams at the lower end of Amargosa Valley in Nye County, Nevada. It is located approximately 30 miles west of Pahrump, Nevada and 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. For most of the year, it is a very hot and dry area at the edge of the Mojave Desert. The refuge is a major release point for an underground aquifer system. The reason for this abundance of water 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. The meadows were established June 18, 1984 as a national wildlife refuge for many types of birds, fish, lizards, and various mammals. It provides a refuge for at least 24 species of plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Crystal Spring Interpretive Boardwalk Trail is a popular way to view the clumps of mistletoe on mesquite trees, water fowl, and the native pupfish.
Devil’s Hole, a flooded cave entrance, provides the only remaining habitat for an endangered species of pupfish. The surface is 10 by 50 feet and is over 500 feet deep. The pupfish live in the top 80 feet of the 93 degree hot spring pool. This iricandescent blue, inch long fish has been isolated for 10,000 to 20,000 years. Due to several factors including: fluctuating water levels, limited food supply, and contamination, the pupfish population was in decline. In 2006 only 38 fish remained in the wild. Many believed that the food supply could be the problem so an artificial food was developed and an automatic feeder was installed. This has been so successful, that in 2011 there was an estimated 104 fish living in the spring fed water. For the safety of the public and the fish, a fence surrounds this area.
Why is it beneficial to have a wildlife refuge in the Mojave Desert? Describe why a coot is such easy prey for an eagle? What might this animal do differently to improve its ability to survive? What characteristics does an animal need to adapt to the harsh conditions of the desert? Name some animals that live in the desert. What adaptations does each animal possess?