Monday, May 1, 2017

South Western Nevada Wildlife Bonanza

Southern Nevada, well much of Nevada, is mostly wide open desert consisting of a mix of valleys and hills and peaks, covered with a variety of low growing vegetation such as creosote and sage, with occasional springs providing water for wildlife. There's miles and miles of this terrain between towns and the potential for spotting wildlife in this harsh landscape is surprisingly high.

During our stay in Pahrump we never encountered any of the wild horses and burros said to be plentiful there, but as soon as we drove out of town we spotted several of each. On our arrival in Beatty, NV for a short stay we spotted burros every day and heard them braying every night.

Wild horses on the drive from Pahrump to Beatty.

Keep your eyes open as you drive around Beatty, you'll eventually spot wild burros on the hills.

We spent three nights at Beatty RV Park, a rustic, no frills park just out of town and enjoyed walking onto BLM land right out the back gate.

Walking onto BLM land right behind Beattyr RV Park...
those are burro trails!

HUGE Great Basin Gopher Snake!
It's probably five feet long and about two inches at the thickest point.

Gorgeous markings!

Kind of unhappy with our attention!
It mimics a rattler by hissing and coiling and even flattening its head.

Just a few miles from Beatty is Rhyolite Ghost Town. Gold was discovered here in 1904 creating a boom, but by 1916 the town was finished. We walked the site on a clear, cold, windy morning, and despite the cold, saw a rattlesnake...too many snakes lately (though it sure is exciting every time we spot one)!

Rhyolite, NV ghost town.

Mine monster!

Saw this rattler as we approached our truck to leave Rhyolite.

This may be a Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake.

Beatty, NV has been in a downward spiral since the last mine closed in 1998. Concerned citizens are trying to reinvent the town as a mountain biking destination. Spicer Ranch, located just north of Beatty RV Park, has a master plan to develop 300 miles of trails. Currently there are about 40 miles of trails and events such as mountain bike races and Tough Mudder runs are held there each year.

We walked about five miles of these trails and felt they would be fun mountain biking. All climbs are well engineered switchbacks and the trails are pretty smooth riding, not too rocky. If we pass through the area again we'd probably break out the bikes.

Spicer Ranch is a swath of green in the desert thanks to springs feeding the Amargosa River.

Long nosed leopard lizard.

The Amargosa River is a tiny stream that comes and goes as it passes through Beatty, NV.
As it disappears into the ground it leaves behind a white alkali residue on the surface, visible in the valley below.

Desert horned lizard.

Such a fierce looking creature, that really isn't!

This black-tailed jack rabbit is frozen in place hoping we can't see him.
We saw dozens of jack rabbits as we hiked at Spicer Ranch.

Amargosa River grasslands.

Crayfish in the Amaargosa River.

Wild burro meeting.

This one was curious about us but kept at least 50 feet away.

The end!

We've since moved on from Beatty to Hawthorne, NV for one night. A long drive through seemingly endless desert broken up by small, struggling former mining towns. The best part was that highway 95 is a great road, very smooth with low traffic.We'd gladly drive this route again just because the road was in such good shape!

Next up: a week in Reno, NV.


  1. We visited Rhyolite Dhost Town when we were staying in Death Valley. It was quite interesting. My favorite was the Bottle House. I love looking at the places on the bottom of the bottles. Did you stop at the Goldwell Open Air Museum? The sculptures in white were very unique and a little eerie. You do always find the most interesting lizards! How interesting that the gopher snake mimicked! I assumed you already visited Death Valley since you were so close!? Can't wait to see what you find in Reno!!

    1. You had a great post on Rhyolite! We were not able to go right up to the bottle house, the gate was locked. Goldwell Museum was neat too!

      We did not do Death Valley due to the long drive and the temperatures. We'll catch it another time...

      We are in heaven with all the wildlife!

  2. You really did hit the wildlife jackpot! Those burros are really cute - they remind me of the "begging burros" in Custer State Park. But I don't know if I'd be so keen to put up with all those rattlesnakes!

    1. I think the last time we saw burros was at Custer. I love seeing snakes...but it is a scary excitement!

  3. You guys are seeing so much wildlife—especially reptiles! Very cool lizards and ENORMOUS gopher snake. The rattlers give me pause, though. So does the Mine Monster. :-)) Everything must be coming out of hibernation. Love the wild burros!

  4. I've seen exactly one snake in our winters in the desert. But we usually have to leave before it gets super snake warm. Loved Rhylolite, such an interesting place. Too bad you couldn't see the bottle house.

  5. I love the lizards. Joe would have been thrilled to see the snakes! The river grasslands photo is so pretty!

  6. I love the reptiles and the mammals! That is such a great part of the state.

  7. Boy you sure saw the wildlife, lizards, jackrabbits, snakes, burros even crayfish. The Gopher Snake is gorgeous! Well so is the rattler but I’d much prefer the gopher imitating a rattler than the rattler itself. They are part of what I don’t like so much about the Southwest. We adopted two burros from Death Valley years ago. They were wonderful. I’d love to hear them bray again.

  8. We are so jealous of all your snake and lizard sightings!! Glad you were able to get such great pics. What a treat to see the horses and burros as well. Hope your temps are staying nice and cool.