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Area: 22,500 Acres
Lat: 35.8002014
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Amargosa Canyon/Armagosa Wild & Scenic River - Site # 285
This canyon is home to the critically endangered Amargosa vole (Microtus californicus scirpensis), a small rodent found only near Tecopa, CA. The China Ranch Trail provides access to a network of hiking trails along Willow Creek and the Amargosa River—the beating heart of the Amargosa Basin where perennial streams support some of the best migratory bird habitat in the southwestern United States.

Often called the "Crown Jewel of the Mojave Desert," the Amargosa River is the only free-flowing river in the Death Valley region of the Mojave, providing a rare and lush riparian area in the desert. The narrow Amargosa Canyon is known for its dense greenery and the shallow Amargosa River, complete with "hanging gardens" and a small waterfall. The river flows year-round dropping south from Nevada and finally flowing into Death Valley National Park.
RegionalRegional - worth visiting if you are already in the area. They may be located farther from populated areas or with more limited wildlife species.

Background: This is the quintessential desert oasis; the classic vagrant bird trap. The Amargosa Canyon is one of the sites with the greatest diversity of birds in the Mojave desert with about 250 different species recorded, including numerous vagrants. The canyon is also home to animals typically found in riparian areas, the coyote, bobcat, kit fox, badger, and similar. Several fish, mammals, insects, and mollusks present in the Amargosa River drainage are animals with very limited distribution or low population numbers. The canyon is secluded, scenic and quiet, having been closed to motorized vehicle use since 1973. There is easy access on a hiking trail along the historic Tonopah and Tidewater railroad grade.
Archeological sites along the river indicate a continuing occupation by indigenous peoples for more than 10,000 years. These sites are located on both sides of the river, in each segment. There is a high concentration of sites within the 1/4-mile boundary of the Amargosa River, because it is the largest water source in the region.

The Habitat: The Amargosa Canyon contains a rich and distinct series of plant assemblages, varying in response to moisture availability and terrain. The river supports large patches of rushes, bulrush, and saltgrass, with additional scattered thickets of willow, mesquite, tamarisk and cattails. The Willow Creek drainage at the China Ranch also includes a comparatively lush assemblage of cottonwood, willow, mesquite, saltbush, creosote bush, date palm, fig and tamarisk.

The Experience: Because the Amargosa River flows above ground all year long, supporting a rich biological diversity of life, in the geographically sheltered Amargosa Canyon. The river supports a lush, dense riparian habitat within a canyon deep in the Mojave Desert, surrounded by millions of acres of barren desert landscape. River and riparian habitat provide food, cover and nesting space to a great variety of birds and animals.

Wildlife and Where to Find It: Some of the best bird watching is on the ranch around the gift shop and from the dirt roads around the date grove. Vehicle use is limited to the access road and parking area. An easy two mile foot trail loops down to the Amargosa Canyon across Willow Creek and back, connecting with the five mile Amargosa River Trail in the main canyon.

Viewing Tips: Bird watching is most common during spring, with lighter visitation in fall. Species on all levels of the food chain can be viewed in the canyon. Mammals at the top of the food chain include the occasional coyote, Bobcat, Badger, Desert Kit Fox, Ringtail Cat, Raccoon, Black-tailed Hare, Audubon Cottontail, Antelope Ground Squirrel, Opossum, Western Pipistrelle Bat, Amargosa Botta Pocket Gopher, plus several species of rat and mice. Two tiny native fish species can be observed in the river, the Speckled Dace and the Amargosa Pupfish, but the canyon is probably most notable for bird-watching. Over the years about 260 different species have been observed in the canyon, including six raptors: the Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk, Marsh Hawk, Sparrow Hawk, and the Prairie Falcon.



Exciting bird observed include Crissal thrashers, Virginia's Warblers, Lucy's Warbler (nesting), Least Bell's Vireo, SW Willow flycatcher, California Yellow-billed Cockoo, More common species include Gambel's Quail, Phainopepla, Great Horned Owl and Loggerhead Shrike. Many types of Sparrow, Warblers, Orioles, Blackbirds and numerous vagrants are here also. Check the China Ranch bird list for more complete listing and best viewing season by species.

Site Notes: The flowing river and surrounding dense riparian growth in the canyon are in extreme contrast to the dry, barren look of the surrounding desert. Public access to the canyon is currently only possible from the China Ranch Date Farm, with parking, a gift shop and the trailhead at the end of the road. Approaching the canyon across the bajada there are no visual clues to indicate such a rich diversity of life. Then the pavement ends and the well maintained dirt road drops down into a narrow canyon with vertical walls. After a few twists you pop out in a lush desert oasis with towering cottonwoods and willows. A hiking trail parallels Willow Creek from the trailhead down into the main canyon.

Nearby Viewing Sites: Grimshaw Lake Watchable Wildlife site.

Visitor Information: Death Valley Chamber of Commerce - (760) 852-4524 - www.deathvalleychamber.org
Viewing Site Hours of Operation are:
Staff On-site: No
Open: Everday
Hours: Daylight
Year Round: Yes

Road Information:   Paved.  Dirt. 
Road Hazards: No
 Number of Parking Spaces: 40
Parking Fee: No
Proximity to viewing area:Immediate
 Pull-Through Parking: Yes
Parking Notes: 

How to Get There: Take Highway 127 north from Baker, or south from Shoshone to Old Spanish Trail Highway. Go east on Old Spanish Trail Highway about 5 miles, through Tecopa, and turn right on Furnace Creek Rd. Continue south-east 2 miles then turn right on China Ranch Rd. Go south 1.5 miles to end of road. Access is from the China Ranch Date Farm.

China Ranch Trail: Trail-head, Parking & Picnic Area
Tecopa, CA 92389
 

Contact Information
Managing Agency: Bureau of Land Management
Agency Site URL: http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/barstow/amargosa.html
Physical Address:72 China Ranch Road
Tecopa, CA 92389
Agency 2:2601 Barstow Road
Barstow, CA 92311
Manager Phone:(760) 252-6000 Contact Us:by Email
Site Phone:(760) 252-6000
County: Inyo & San Bernardino
Addition Website: