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USA Parks
Cowboy Country Region
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Campsite Availability
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Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge Blue Heron © David Stierman
Blue Heron w/bass
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge American Bittern © David Stierman
American Bittern I think 2008
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge Cormorant © David Stierman
Double-crested Cormorants in flight 2008
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge Snowy Egret © David Stierman
Snowy Egret Summer 2008
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge Great Egret © David Stierman
Great Egret Summer 2008
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Ruby Valley, Nevada
Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge lies at the southern end of the Ruby Valley in northeast Nevada. Located at an elevation of 6,000 feet and flanked on the west by the rugged and scenic Ruby Mountains, it is one of the most remote refuges in the lower 48 states. The refuge encompasses 39,928 acres and consists of a marsh bordered by meadows, grasslands, and brush-covered uplands.

It serves as a magnet for a wide diversity of wildlife species and is strategically located along migration corridors serving both the Pacific and Central Flyways. The refuge has been identified as one of 500 Globally Important Bird Areas by the American Bird Conservancy.

The National Park Service designated the South Marsh a National Natural Landmark because of the biological diversity and pristine condition of the habitat. The refuge is one of the most important waterfowl nesting areas in the Great Basin and intermountain West.

The South Marsh supports the largest population of nesting canvasback ducks west of the Mississippi River (outside Alaska), and holds the highest concentration of nesting canvasbacks in North America. Due to habitat loss elsewhere in the Great Basin, the refuge has become increasingly important to resident wildlife, including mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and sage grouse. The refuge fishery is popular with local anglers.
Nature of the Area
Located in the Great Basin of the West, Ruby Lake Refuge is a wetland oasis in Nevada's high desert. This remarkable refuge lies along the eastern flank of the scenic, snowcapped Ruby Mountains. A pristine marsh, meadows, grasslands, and shrub-steppe uplands provide essential habitat for thousands of nesting and migrating waterfowl, waterbirds, songbirds, and native wildlife.

Ruby Lake Refuge, which supports the largest population of nesting canvasback ducks west of the Mississippi River outside Alaska, is a vital waterfowl nesting area. At 6,000 feet in elevation, its 17,000-acre marsh is a remnant of a larger body of water known as Ancient Lake Franklin, which existed during the Pleistocene Epoch.

Over 160 springs emanating from the base of the Ruby Mountains provide life-sustaining water to the refuge. The marsh is surrounded by over 20,600 acres of meadows, grasslands, alkali playa, and shrub-steppe uplands.

Over 220 species of birds regularly visit the refuge. Providing nesting habitat for migratory birds is the primary purpose of the refuge, and waterfowl are the most conspicuous breeders. Canvasback and redhead ducks, among other waterfowl species, reproduce here. The once-endangered trumpeter swan, originally transplanted between 1947 and 1958 from Red Rocks Lake Refuge in Montana, is also found at Ruby Lake Refuge. Several pairs nest and raise young each year, and 40 or more birds may winter here.

In all, 15 species of waterfowl nest on this refuge, as well as a variety of other water-dependent birds such as coots, grebes, sandhill cranes, great blue herons, white-faced ibis, black-necked stilts, avocets, yellow-headed blackbirds, common yellow-throats, and marsh wrens.

Seven species of fish inhabit refuge waters. The relict dace is the only native species of fish on the refuge, and is present in only a few other basins in northeastern Nevada. A small number of Lahontan speckled dace remain from a transplant made in 1950.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
September 22 Big Sky by Janet Moose
park review stars; one to five I love Ruby. Been going out to Shanty Town for years. I leave all my trouble behind when I am there. We love to fish, hike, explore and have fun. I do not like the fact that the follage was killed with Round Up. What kind of people kill plants that the fauna depend upon. It tore my heart out to see the deep tule.
March 20 Fabulous Birding Park! by Barbara & Andrew Clark, OR
park review stars; one to five We came hoping to see the Himalayan Snowcocks and discovered the marsh with many species of water birds and the shooting stars in full bloom....beautiful....we hope to come back!
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Nearby Hotels

Visitors must travel 17 to 35 miles of gravel road to reach the refuge from any direction. In summer visitors can travel 65 miles south of Elko on State Highway 228 (paved two-lane) through Spring Creek and Jiggs to County Road 718. Part of County Road 718 over Harrison Pass is a steep, rough, and winding unimproved gravel road.

It is not passable in winter and is never recommended for large trailers or motor homes. Alternate routes, open all year, include U.S. Highway 93 south of Wells to State Highway 229 and County Road 767 (improved gravel), a total of 80 miles; or Interstate 80 at exit 321 through Secret Pass to County Road 767, a total of 90 miles from Elko. A calling card phone is located at Ruby Lake Resort (10 miles north of refuge headquarters).

Fuel and basic groceries are not always available in Ruby Valley; and there are no sales outlets for State hunting and fishing licenses. Contact the refuge headquarters for current information.

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State of Nevada Parks