March 7, 2017
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
The recent weekend that I was camping at Tecopa with Great Outdoors, some of us took a trip to Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, which is in Nevada, not far from Death Valley Junction, California. My goal was to see the (somewhat) famous Devil's Hole. While the refuge is managed by US Fish and Wildlife Service, Devil's Hole, which was protected well before the refuge was created, is managed by the National Park Service. Devil's Hole is the only place to find Devil's Hole pupfish. There are less than 200 of them living there. There are other isolated bodies of water in the refuge that also host their own unique varieties of pupfish.
No one has found the bottom of Devil's Hole, if there is one. Divers have disappeared down there. The natives believed that Devil's Hole created earthquakes all around the world. Today's science has shown that in reality Devil's Hole is super-sensitive to earthquakes around the world. A well known instance of this was demonstrated in 2012 when there was an earthquake in Oaxaca, 1900 miles away, on March 20. Here's a video of what happened at Devil's hole 13 minutes after the quake (the shockwave had to travel at 8,770 MPH - the speed of sound in air is only 767 MPH):
Devil's Hole was most recently in the news due to a few people trespassing and vandalizing it in April 2016. Here's the security video. According to our docent at Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, the men attempted to disable all the security cameras, but obviously missed some. Once the reward for information was increased to $25,000 a friend of the men came forward to identify them. DNA left by the men in their vomit, on their beer cans and discarded underwear(!) cinched identification. Besides all their damage to the habitat, they did kill at least one pupfish which is a federal felony. One of the men was an ex-felon, so he could also be charged for possessing a firearm. I haven't been able to find any information on what they were finally convicted of and the sentences given, so maybe the case is still not completely settled.
To my complete surprise, rather than being isolated on a barren desert, Ash Meadows NWR is a wet and almost lush landscape where the Devil's Hole is located. I never heard the word "endemic" used so often with this meaning: "restricted or peculiar to a locality or region endemic diseases an endemic species." From Wikipedia:
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge was established to provide and protect habitat for at least twenty-six endemic plants and animals, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. Four fish and one plant are currently listed as endangered species.
The concentration of locally exclusive flora and fauna distinguishes Ash Meadows is the greatest concentration of endemic biota in any local area within the United States. It has the second greatest local endemism concentration in all of North America.
A new city that was proposed for development in what is now Ash Meadows NWR. The predicted population of the city would have drained the aquifer there, destroying all of the springs and killing most of those endemic species, including pupfish.
A video of one of several streams that flow continuously in the Ash Meadows NWR. Water from the refuge drains to the Amargosa River which drains into Death Valley, where it goes no further, of course.
Great blog entry! Things I never knew.
I was in a pool in Cathedral City during that quake. It got the pool sloshing back & forth, but not splashing out. The quake lasted for almost a minute.
Posted by: Paul Quesnell at Mar 7, 2017 3:20:42 PM