Mommy Vegas Idea #5
The Weather is Great, Let the Exploring Begin!
I’ve always had an affinity for desert springs. I love the visual contrast of these lush green little oases, nestled amidst the dry and vibrant desert backdrop. In my view, the best desert hikes are somehow associated with springs, creeks, waterfalls, ponds, and the like. Not only because the foliage is alluring, but they are often teaming with life!
In one pond you are likely to find, aquatic insects (gerrids or water striders, boatmen, predaceous diving beetles…) and aquatic insect larvae (dragonflies, mayflies, damselflies, caddisflies…), frogs/toads and, if the time is right, their eggs or larvae, crustaceans (copepods, fairy shrimp, triops or tadpole shrimp…). The temporary pools, or tinajas, are particularly exciting, like little freshwater tidepools… with a much more infrequent “tide.”
I’m sure your sensing my enthusiasum at this point, which is probably prompting you to believe that as the weather cools, I’ll be posting more and more hikes with water features… and you’d… be… RIGHT! So, without further adieu…
Wheeler Camp Springs
Bring a bag for wet clothes and muddy shoes.
I thought we’d start out with a very simple, straight-forward excursion, but one that very few people seem to know about. Wheeler Camp Spring is a beautiful little spot adjacent to the quaint town of Blue Diamond. It has approximately three aquatic, or wet, areas all of which are neatly fenced in an Audubon Preserve.
This little oasis has plenty of photo ops (don’t forget those holiday card pics you’ve been meaning to take!) and opportunities for the littles to learn about nature. There is a well manicured gravel/dirt parking area accessible from Highway 159 (though technically this is a stretch of Blue Diamond Road, I often hear it called “the Road to Red Rock”, or more confusingly “the Red Rock Loop”… not to be confused with the Red Rock Scenic Loop — it’s the road that you are dumped onto if you drive West on Charleston long enough, or you can turn onto from Highway 160/Blue Diamond, in order to get to Red Rock.
Note: this is NOT located on the Red Rock Scenic Route (the portion within the Park).
If you are coming from the Southeast side of Vegas or coming in from Pahrump, take Highway 160/Blue Diamond to the Red Rock turnoff, then travel NW on Highway 159, the turnoff will be the very next one on the left after the little town of Blue Diamond, you’ll see the large Cottonwood Trees from the highway.
If you are coming from the Summerlin side of Vegas, you will continue on Charleston past the Scenic Loop and Red Rock Visitor’s Center, past Spring Mountain Ranch and Bonnie Springs, then on the right you will see a few green areas, the first is Oliver Ranch, the next will be the turn off for Wheeler Camp Springs, hang a right and park in the gravel/dirt parking area.
Once there, you’ll see a small chain-link gate and a wood turn gate, go through both and you will be on an old road that now doubles as a trail. The signage stresses that you close the gate, so please take heed. I’m not sure what we’re trying to keep in… or out… but my guess is the burros put a serious hurtin’ on the joint when given the chance, they’re thirsty little buggers. Follow the trail away from the parking area and toward the green. You will be dumped somewhat unceremoniously onto a wash bed, follow that down and enjoy!
You really can’t get lost. The last time we where here we had an unofficial round of Marco Polo going where I would try to have Little Bear follow my voice, I could actually see him the whole time, but he thought he was being a brave explorer.
The water will be mostly to your right, with various use trails jetting off once the green starts to thicken. Be sure to stay on areas that have obviously been tread upon in the past. Enjoy the beautiful views and sounds and see who can spot the most critters! Our last trip we saw countless lizards, much to Little Bug’s delight. There were also various birds, dragon flies, ground squirrels, and even some Pacific Chorus Treefrogs (Pseudacris regilla), which twill beautifully in the evening if you’re lucky.
This time of year there is not usually very much water, but with all the rain of late, there re a few good wet spots.
Remember, as with all hikes, “Take only photographs and leave only footprints.”
- Valley of Fire Day Trip (mommyvegas.wordpress.com)
- Red Rock National Park (mariasrico.wordpress.com)