Brochure of Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Nevada. Published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).
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Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge 1020 New River Parkway, Suite 305 Fallon, Nevada 89406 For Visitor Information Field Office: 775/428 6452 Refuge Headquarters: 775/423 5128 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.fws.gov/refuge/stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Information: 1 800/344 WILD http://www.fws.gov Nevada Relay Center Voice 1 800/362 6888 TTY 1 800/362 6868 This brochure will be made available in other formats upon request. March 2003 FWS Robert Fields U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex The Stillwater refuge complex provides a striking setting for hunting, observing and learning about wildlife in what is considered a globally important bird area. The abundance of species here has been described as a true wildlife spectacle. American white pelicans from Anaho Island, FWS Photo The Refuge Complex Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex (NWRC) is composed of three refuges – Stillwater, Fallon and Anaho Island. Together, they contribute substantially to the conservation of wildlife and their habitat in the western Great Basin. Fallon National Wildlife Refuge 80 95 80 Old River Fernley ALT 50 Derby Dam Hazen ALT 95 Lahontan Dam Carson River 50 Fallon St gh ou Sl il N 0 Miles 2 0 Kilometers 2 ALT 95 Private Lands New River Lahontan Reservoir 50 Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge lw Silver Springs 50 Stillwater Dunes Carson Sink Stillwater Wildlife Management Area er e River cke Tru Anaho Island National Wildlife Refuge at Pyramid Lake FWS Janet Schmidt Nevada The Stillwater NWRC refuges are several of more than 520 wildlife refuges nationwide. This network of refuge lands was established for the conservation and management of fish, wildlife, and plant resources for the benefit of present and future generations. The Blue Goose is the symbol of the National Wildlife Refuge System. 95 Carson Lake 50 Carson River © Bob Goodman Diverse Habitat and Species Black-necked stilt The refuge complex encompasses a great diversity of habitat, from freshwater marshes and river habitat to brackish water marshes, alkali playas, extensive salt desert shrublands, a 25-mile-long sand dune complex and a small island in a desert lake. Stillwater Range FWS Photo Stillwater Marsh FWS Photo Refuge habitats attract nearly 400 species of vertebrates or other wildlife, including more than 290 species of birds, plus countless species of invertebrates. Waterfowl, shorebirds and other waterbirds are abundant, especially during migration. With its immense richness and abundance in a desert environment, the refuge complex is a great place for hunting, observing and learning about wildlife in the Great Basin. Rare Visitor, Brown Pelican Wildlife Oasis The Lahontan Valley is a surprisingly lush oasis in the dry Great Basin ecosystem. Thousands of American avocets, black-necked stilts and a variety of sandpipers pass through in what is termed a true wildlife spectacle. Mammals FWS E. Loth Diverse Wildlife © Anthony Battiste Kit fox, present but hard to view, are year-round residents. Mule deer, coyote and muskrat are often seen along refuge roads. An occasional mountain lion ventures into the valley and through the marsh in search of prey. Coyote © Dave Menke Muskrats A variety of lizard species and kangaroo rats leave their tracks in the desert sand amidst greasewood shrubs. The white-tailed antelope squirrel is one of the few rodents easily seen as it darts between bushes and under fences. Rabbits (cottontail and black-tailed jack) abound. Kangaroo rat Mule deer Collared Lizard © Bob Goodman FWS Photo FWS Dan Roseberg Desert Species FWS Photo The Stillwater marshland also attracts some rarities. White-winged scoter, stilt sandpiper, brown pelican and the pomarine jaeger are a few avian species that can make special appearances. FWS Photo White-winged scoter rare appearance. FWS Photo Spring FWS Janet Schmidt American white pelican Burrowing owl Americn avocet on nest FWS Photo FWS L. McDaniel White-faced ibis Refuge Seasons Early spring boasts an onslaught of tens of thousands of returning migrants. Canvasback, northern pintails, green-winged and cinnamon teal, and occasionally snow geese begin to arrive in late February. American white pelicans also start returning to nesting habitat on Anaho Island in Pyramid Lake. April finds resident waterfowl nesting and shorebirds returning in significant numbers. In the water, birds such as the Clark’s or western grebes and ruddy ducks put on their courting shows. Long-billed curlew, Swainson’s hawks and brightly colored passerines, such as Bullock’s orioles and yellow-headed blackbirds, also arrive and begin to nest. In early May, summer colonial nesting birds including white-faced ibis, snowy, great and cattle egrets, Forster’s terns and sometimes burrowing owls are nesting. Winter Beginning in June, the late arrivals include the common nighthawk and a variety of flycatchers. Marsh wrens, sora, the secretive American bittern and Virginia rail can be seen among the marshes tule and cattails. Black-crowned night-heron FWS Photo Summer Red-winged blackbird Great egret FWS Photo © Bob Goodman Fall FWS Photo © Bob Goodman August begins the fall migration with Hooded merganser shorebirds such as black-necked stilt, yellowlegs, long-billed dowitcher and sandpipers trekking south. Waterfowl begin arriving in September. When cold weather arrives, usually in October, whitecrowned sparrows and goldfinch seek out the warmer lower altitudes. Northern pintail Tundra swans During winter months Tundra swan, bald and golden eagles, rough-legged hawks, loggerhead shrike and prairie falcons circle over the area. Over-wintering egrets and herons are quite often spotted, and black-billed magpies, year-round residents, are also seen. FWS Photo In 1990, the refuge boundary was expanded to encompass Stillwater Marsh for the purpose of maintaining and restoring natural biodiversity; providing for the conservation and management of fish and wildlife and their habitat; and fulfilling international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife. Wildlife observation Birders’ Paradise The Stillwater wetlands are well known to birders. The area has been designated a site of international importance by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network, because of the hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, such as the long-billed dowitcher, black-necked stilt and American avocet, using this area during migration. Stillwater Refuge also received the designation of a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy. FWS Janet Schmidt Another important obligation was providing opportunities for scientific research, environmental education and fish and wildlifeoriented recreation. Environmental education for young and old. © Bob Goodman Stillwater Refuge Stillwater NWR is located in the Lahontan Valley, 16 miles from the center of Fallon. It was established in 1949 as a wildlife sanctuary, closed to all public access. More than 290 species have been sighted in the area. Its tremendously rich and diverse wetlands attract more than a quarter million waterfowl, as well as over 20,000 other water birds, including American white pelicans, doublecrested cormorants, white-faced ibis and several species of egrets, herons, gulls and terns. Location Pyramid Lake Anaho Island N.W.R. 59 miles Pyramid Island Sutcliffe 447 445 To Reno from Sutcliffe 35 miles Nixon N 0 Miles 0 4 Kilometers American white pelicans Do Not Disturb Double-crested cormorants Anaho Island NWR is one of the largest of only eight nesting colonies of American white pelicans in western United States and Canada. In summer, more than 7,000 to 10,000 pairs congregate on the island to nest and as many as 3,500 young are raised. In 1999, over 20,000 adult pelicans returned to Anaho Island to successfully nest and rear over 10,000 juvenile birds. The island also provides nesting areas for doublecrested cormorants, California gulls, great blue herons and occasionally, Caspian terns. Common passerines found on the island are the rock wren and white-crowned and savannah sparrows. While the only mammal appears to be the deer mouse, and the only snake a Great Basin rattler, lizards such as the desert spiny, desert horned, side-blotched and zebra tailed join a diverse group of insects to round out island diversity. Birds like the white pelican need solitude for nesting. Disturbances which seem slight are often enough to frighten adult birds from their nests. This leaves their eggs or young to die from overheating in the hot summer sun, or to be attacked and eaten by ever watchful gulls. To protect the nesting colonies, the entire island is closed to the public and boating is prohibited within 500 feet of the island. Where Can I See the Birds? FWS Photo FWS Photo Archeological surveys of the island have not identified any significant prehistoric cultural resources, but the island figures prominently in the spiritual beliefs of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. Early inhabitants gathered eggs and feathers from the island for food and adornment of ceremonial dress. Few Nesting Colonies Left FWS Photo Truckee River 4 Anaho Island is part of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation, but is managed as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System under an agreement with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. FWS A. Uchiyama Anaho Island Refuge Anaho Island NWR is located near the eastern shoreline of Pyramid Lake in Washoe County, Nevada, 30 miles northwest of Reno. President Woodrow Wilson established this refuge in Nevada 1913 as a sanctuary for colonial nesting birds, primarily American white To Gerlach pelicans. from Nixon It is not necessary to visit the island to see the birds. Pyramid Lake and the Lahontan Valley wetlands (including Stillwater NWR), 60 miles to the southeast, provide fish to feed the adult and juvenile pelicans. Pelicans can be readily viewed as they forage in these areas, or as the adults make a return trip to feed flightless young on Anaho Island. The majority of these birds leave Anaho Island at the end of the summer and pass through Salton Sea NWR on their way to winter in the Gulf of Mexico. The Water Cycle Stillwater Marsh has always been subject to natural cycles of drought and flood. Most of the marsh’s water originates as snowmelt in the Sierra Nevada, and a year of poor snow means drought in the wetlands. Fallon Refuge Fallon NWR is located approximately 30 miles northeast of Fallon, at the terminus of a branch of the Carson River. Established in 1931 as a breeding ground for birds and other wildlife, it is dominated by gently rolling to flat desert shrublands consisting of greasewood and saltbush. Boom or Bust While water evaporates at the rate of 5 feet per year in the Lahontan Valley, rainfall averages only 5 inches annually and is highly unpredictable from one year to the next. Spring rains, combined with heavy snowfall in the Sierra, can flood not only the Stillwater marshes but also the entire Carson Sink. On the opposite extreme, between 1986 and 1992 there was drought in both Nevada and the Sierra. Plants and Animals Cope Stillwater’s plants and animals have been coping with these cycles for thousands of years. Eggs of fairy shrimp, seeds, and rhizomes of many wetland plants can lie dormant for years while waiting for spring runoff to refill the wetlands. Birds can fly long distances in search of food, delay nesting until a better year or seek different nesting areas. Populations of other animals, such as minnows or muskrats, may decline to tiny remnants but recover quickly when good water conditions return. Water Management However, for populations of plants and animals already challenged by drought, survival lies in the balance. Water diversions can mean the difference between the marsh getting little water or none at all in the driest years. For this reason, the Fish and Wildlife Service continues to purchase the water needed to sustain 14,000 acres of the historic marshes within the refuge complex. FWS Photo A system of both active and stable dunes also characterizes the topography in this area, including the lowest elevation found in the refuge, about 3,800 feet in the Carson Sink. Limited hunting is available on Fallon NWR, including waterfowl and upland game. Access is limited to open roads and four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. FWS Janet Schmidt FWS Photo FWS Photo Water delivery system: canals, dikes, and marsh units Glacial Lake Early Settlement A History of Change Twelve thousand years ago, a giant lake created by melting glaciers, Lake Lahontan, filled the valleys of western Nevada. As the climate warmed, the glaciers retreated and the lake dried up. Stillwater Marsh is one of its last remnants. Look for old shorelines of Lake Lahontan etched high on the hills surrounding the marsh. When the first Euro-American explorers arrived here in the mid1800’s, they found a marsh teeming with fish, birds and plant life, and a people known as the Toidikadi, or Cattail-Eater Paiute, who used these resources in ingenious ways. As farms and pastures began to replace marshes, meadows and river bottoms in the 1870s, some native plants and animals grew more scarce. But for many years, the Stillwater marshes remained a paradise for migratory birds. In 1898, one visitor described the marsh as a “half shallow lake, half tule swamp which extends for 20 miles along the valley bottom… a breeding ground for great numbers of water and shore birds.” A Resource Almost Lost Wildlife Management Area In the early 1900s, the Bureau of Reclamation developed the Newlands Irrigation Project to supply Lahontan Valley farmers with an abundant and reliable water source. The Carson River was dammed, creating the Lahontan Reservoir. This reduced water flowing into the marsh to a trickle. Saving the Flyway Although at that time Carson River flows sustained only a fraction of the original marsh, this action prevented the loss of the Pacific Flyway in western Nevada. In 1991, 77,500 acres of the management area was set aside as the Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge. Today, the Service purchases water to flood refuge marshes. In the following decades, deep-water ponds favored by waterfowl gave way to dense jungles of tules and cattails. The great flights of birds that Pony Express riders saw darkening the skies in the 1860s dwindled to a remnant. Cultural Heritage Stillwater NWR is one of the most important archaeological areas in western Nevada. In the mid-1980s, floods washed away topsoil, exposing numerous village sites, artifacts and burials dating from 300 to 3,200 years ago. These cultural remains have added greatly to our understanding of the marsh and the people who obtained a living from it. Do Not Disturb Artifacts Cultural resources such as arrowheads, grinding stones, burials and associated articles are important clues to the past and are protected from collecting by Federal law. You can help protect the past by leaving artifacts where you find them and reporting your discovery to the refuge office. In 1948, action was taken to prevent complete loss of the Stillwater marshes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Nevada Fish and Game Commission entered into an agreement with the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District to develop and manage 224,000 acres of Bureau of Reclamation-Newlands Irrigation Project lands for wildlife and grazing. The new lands were designated as the Stillwater Wildlife Management Area. Visiting the Refuge Although it’s not required, we recommend you contact us for assistance in planning your wildlife observation, photography or hunting experience. The weather in the Great Basin can be extreme and droughts or floods are not uncommon. If you know when you will be traveling through the area, call or e-mail us at the address on back cover for up-to-date information on roads and climatic conditions. Visitor Services Winter viewing is more limited but provides opportunity to see golden and bald eagles, as well as other resident raptor species. Refuge Complex Headquarters is located in the city of Fallon, at 1000 Auction Road. The Refuge Field Office, staffed by volunteers and visitor services personnel, is located closer to the refuge, approximately 12 miles east of Refuge Headquarters, just off Stillwater Road. FWS Janet Schmidt Spring and fall provide the best viewing opportunities for larger groups of birds as they gather for migration. Watch for flocks of white-faced ibis in local irrigated fields on your way to the refuge during the spring. © Bob Goodman Kayaking on Lead Lake Your vehicle is an excellent observation and photographic blind. Staying in your car will often avoid flushing wildlife and provide you with better viewing opportunities. N Use binoculars and spotting scopes to bring the wildlife closer to you without disturbing their activities. Cameras, wildlife guide books, insect repellent, water and a snack will also enhance your refuge experience. w u y Camping is permitted year-round in two designated areas only. Pets must be leashed. Campfires are not permitted. Hunting is permitted in designated areas and in accordance with State and Federal regulations. Please consult annual hunting leaflet for up-to-date information. This leaflet is available at refuge headquarters, field office, website and information kiosks. Best Time of Day Plan your visit according to the season and time of day. Wildlife is generally more active in mornings and early evenings than in the afternoon. Best Times of Year Stay in Your Car Non-motorized boats are allowed year-round in Swan Check Lake. Other boating is not allowed outside waterfowl hunting season. Consult the hunting leaflet for designated boating areas. The refuge offers tours and talks for interested groups. Please contact refuge personnel for more information. “Equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from programs and activities of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is available to all individuals regardless of physical or mental disability. For more information please contact the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Equal Opportunity, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20240