Description - The Spring Mountains rise to almost 12,000 feet elevation from the desert floor of southern Nevada. This Sky Island ecosystem is surrounded by the Mojave Desert, but is strongly influenced by the Great Basin and the Grand Canyon regions. The mountain range has been isolated from similar mountain ranges for the last 10,000 years. All these elements have helped create a refuge within the Spring Mountains for 58 sensitive species, including 24 endemic species (14 plants, 7 butterflies, 1 mammal, and 2 spring snails).
The Spring Mountains National Recreation Area is a 45 minute drive from downtown Las Vegas, the nation's fastest metropolitan area. This area provides an escape from the valley temperatures of over 100 degrees, high elevation campgrounds and trails, and major recreation opportunities Kyle and Lee Canyons receive an estimated 2.5 million visitors per year.
Clokeys eggvetch (Astragals oophorus vary. clokeyanus), one of the endemic plant species, is only known from 5 locations in the Spring Mountains, with a total population estimate of 3,000 individuals. The largest population occurs in Lee Canyon, adjacent to the only ski area within 200 miles. The highly popular Bristlecone Trail bisects this population. Trail counts during the summer estimate that approximately 1,000 visitors use this trail per week.
Because of the extremely small population and the high amount of visitation that occurs within the population, The Nature Conservancy was extremely concerned about the continued existence of this species and in 1993, recommended the US Fish and Wildlife Service list it as endangered. Shortly after their recommendation, the Las Vegas Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest was designated as the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (SMNRA) by the U.S. Congress. The creation of the SMNRA was a grass roots effort by many long-term southern Nevada residents. The language of the legislation, developed by the local community, encouraged the Forest Service to protect the rare and unique environments within the Spring Mountains, including the endemic species. It also directed the Forest Service to produce a new management plan for the Spring Mountains by October, 1996.
- Located in the southern region of Nevada, this environmentally sensitive area offers visitors the opportunity to experience and study nature at firsthand. Moreover hikers to the area are introduced to the bristlecone pine (Pinus longaeva), a plant considered to be the oldest known living thing in the world. Several specimens have been found which approach 5000 years in age. A bristlecone pine six feet tall may contain as many as 900 growth rings.
The Spring Mountain Scenic Loop Drive is a 3-hour drive from Las Vegas, elevation 2,200 feet, to the pure mountain scenery of the Toiyabe National Forest. First follow U.S. Highway 95 north, then travel on either State highway 156 or 157. Paved roads reach 8,500 feet in elevation Lee Canyon. A 30 degree temperature change refreshes and cools the visitor. State Highway 158 through Deer Creek provides a link between Kyle and Lee Canyons. This scenic loop drive combines scenes of the mountains and forest with the panoramic view of miles of desert. Campgrounds, picnic areas, a ski area, and two lodges provide opportunities for picnicking and the numerous trails are great for short hikes.
Recreation - Facilities in this region include, wildlife viewing, bird watching, scenic viewing, scenic driving and hiking.
Climate - Typical low desert conditions, winters are mild with temperatures ranging from freezing to 75 degrees. Daily summer highs usually exceed 100 degrees and may reach 120 degrees. Summer temperatures do not vary widely from day to night.
The Spring Mountain National Recreation Area is located in the southern area of Nevada. From Las Vegas west along State Route 159.