The Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge is located in southern Nevada about one hour north of Las Vegas, so this natural area is a good choice for a day trip destination. When traveling on Interstate Highway 15, the Glendale exit is the one to look for and the signage is easy to spot along Highway 168 going west. Nevada Highway 168 also continues west to to the intersection of U.S. Highway 93, just a short distance north of the entrance to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge. This is important to remember, because the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Center is also an official educational center for the Desert NWR. For those who wish to gain a better understanding of the entire wildlife ecosystem in this desolate region, a visit to the Moapa Valley NWR will be like a primer course.
The Moapa Valley NWR was established a few decades ago primarily to protect the endangered Moapa dace fish species in the Muddy River headwaters. Due to progress in local restoration projects, this wildlife refuge is only open a limited number of days each week and it has been subject to Covid closures, so it is best to check the official website when making plans. The ecosystem restoration project may be difficult for a modern visitor to imagine, but this area actually used to be a full facility RV resort. The main attraction was the local hot springs back in those days, which were the actual home of the endangered Moapa dace. With all the trailer trash removed from this spot, the geothermal hot springs wetland area has almost been completely restored to its original splendor.
There are foot trails in the this refuge and the birding is superb, so there is enough to experience to stay busy for a few hours. As mentioned earlier, the Moapa Valley NWR is an orientation center for the vast Desert National Wildlife Refuge, so this little spot on the map definitely offers an educational experience for visitors of all ages and there is a wealth of material to be found in this place. For those seeking more to do, one state park, three national parks and two more wildlife refuges are located nearby. There are plenty of BLM camping options in this region too, so be sure to check out the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge when doing the grand tour!
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