Description - The Desert Range encompasses 1.5 million acres of diverse Mojave Desert in southern Nevada. It is the largest national wildlife refuge in the 48 contiguous states. The Range contains six major mountain ranges, the highest rising from 2,500-foot valleys to nearly 10,000 feet. Annual rainfall ranges from less than 4 inches on the valley floors to over 15 inches on the highest peaks. Of the six mountain ranges, the Sheep Range is the highest and most scenic, and it supports the greatest diversity of wildlife and vegetation types.
Perpetuating the desert bighorn sheep and its habitat is the most important objective. Mule deer, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, foxes, and an occasional mountain lion are the larger mammals sharing this habitat with the bighorn sheep. Over 260 species of birds have been identified on the Range. Examples are phainopepla, roadrunner, pinyon jay, house finch, loggerhead shrike, red-tailed hawk, and golden eagle.
Creosote bush and white bursage are dominant shrubs in the hottest, low elevations of the Range. A couple thousand feet above the valley, Mojave yucca and cactus become abundant. Near 6,000 feet at the upper edge of the desert shrub communities, blackbrush and Joshua tree become abundant.
Desert bighorn often inhabit the upper elevations of this community, as do loggerhead shrikes, cactus wrens, and sage sparrows. Lizards are common at the lower elevations, as are ravens, LeCont's thrashers, and black-throated sparrows.
An anomaly in these communities is the habitat at Corn Creek. Here, springs turn the desert into an oasis attracting over 200 species of birds.
Above 6,000 feet, Joshua trees become scarce and are replaced by single-leaf pinyon and Utah juniper. Big sagebrush is the most common shrub. Desert bighorn and mule deer inhabit the woodlands when springs are close or vegetation is lush from recent range. Pinyon jay, common bushtit, and broad-tailed hummingbirds are common in the desert woodlands.
- Camping and backpacking: These activities are permitted year round. All camps, except backpack camps must be located within 100 feet of designated roads. Camping within 1/4 mile or within sight of any water holes or spring is prohibited.
Roadside camping is permitted along any of the trails that are posted open to vehicles. Camp elevation should be adjusted according to seasonal conditions. The most popular backpacking areas are Hidden Forest Canyon and Sawmill Canyon. Both are approximately 5 miles long and terminate at springs located in the coniferous forest vegetative type. The opportunity to observe wildlife, except for desert bighorn sheep, at these springs is good.
Roadside campers and backpackers alike must bring their own water. Fresh water is not available at Sawmill Spring. Wiregrass Spring at Hidden Forest may contain bacterial contaminants and is not recommended as a source of drinking water.
Hiking or Horseback Riding: The entire refuge, excluding the portion of the range used by Nellis Air Force Base, is open to horseback riding and hiking. The preferred backing area, Hidden Forest and Sawmill Canyon are popular horseback riding and hiking areas as are other deep canyons in the Sheep and Las Vegas Mountains.
Horseback riding is permitted year round. water is scarce and critical to bighorns and other wildlife especially during the hot summer months. Except in emergency, please do not use wildlife water to water horses.
Picnicking: Picnicking is permitted along designated roads. There are two small picnic areas with tables and grills, but no water at Corn Creek Field Station and Mormon Well Pass.
Vehicular Travel: Vehicles are permitted only on designated roads. Roads are rough and unimproved, thus they may be impassable for passenger cars. All vehicles must be street legal.
Fires: Campfires are permitted, but only dead wood may be used. No wood may be removed from the range.
Artifacts: Searching for or removing objects of antiquity, defacing rock art and disturbing archaeological sites is prohibited. Rock or mineral collecting is restricted to materials that are exposed and collectable without the use of tools, including metal detectors.
Animal and plant life: Collecting, possessing, disturbing, injuring and removal or transportation of any plant, animal or part thereof (alive or dead) is prohibited. Exceptions to the above are legally taken bighorn sheep and mule deer.
Hunting: Limited hunting for bighorn sheep and mule deer is permitted. Contact the refuge manager for additional hunting information. All other wildlife is protected.
Recreation - Facilities in this USDI Fish and Wildlife National Refuge includes; wildlife viewing, bird watching, nature study, viewing historical sites, scenic viewing, camping, picnicking, walking and geology.
Climate - Seasonal temperatures vary greatly with the region, from hot summers to cold winters. Summer temperatures can reach 90 degrees during the day, with winter daytime temperatures only about 40 degrees.
From Las Vegas take either U.S. Highway 95 or U.S. Highway 93 north.