by Elise McAllister – Partners In Conservation
When driving along I-15 between Mesquite and Las Vegas, if you happen to be looking south at exactly the right second, you will catch a glimpse of a hidden treasure — Moapa Valley. It’s fitting that this treasure is hidden because if it were in plain view, it would be too popular and loved to death. The fact that it is out-of-sight means those that find it’s unspoiled beauty and unlimited fun can feel like this desert paradise belongs only to them. Do you want in on this fabulous secret, so you, too, can partake in the wonderland of outdoor fun that Moapa Valley offers? Then, read on!
Moapa Valley is one long valley along the Muddy River which originates in the Warm Springs area and travels through verdant farmland for about 30 miles before arriving at Lake Mead. Let’s start at the headwaters and explore this gem all the way to Lake Mead.
Take either exit 91 and follow the frontage road to SR 168 (from southbound I-15) or exit 90 (from northbound I-15) to SR 168. This route heads directly west for seven miles, then turn left onto Warm Springs Road and travel approximately two miles. On the left, you will find the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and just a scant quarter of a mile further on the right, you will find the Warm Springs Natural Area managed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Both locations provide hiking trails through an oasis of greenery created by multiple springs that create the Muddy River. Take your time and bring your cameras and binoculars as wildlife abounds here. Either location is a bird-viewing mecca, and you can spend a whole day wandering through each of the areas, drinking in the beauty and surreal surroundings of a stunning desert oasis. You’ll get hungry, so pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic at either location. Both locations provide tables, shade structures, and other necessary facilities. Each area has informational kiosks, and lingering at each will provide your friends and family with a new understanding of this paradise.
I-15 crosses the Muddy River at the above-mentioned exits, so to continue our journey along the Muddy River, from either side of the freeway, take exit 93 which becomes SR-169. This state route takes you through the farmlands and idyllic rural valley with multiple side trips. You’ll be in the town of Logandale when you pass a church on the right, a park on the left, and the post office on the right. Turn right on Liston Avenue and right on the dirt road. Follow this access road for about four miles, and you will arrive at one of the most scenic OHV areas you’ll ever have the pleasure to enjoy. Red rocks abound as do coral sand dunes and about 200 miles of varied trails, from ridge-riding to rock-climbing or sand-surfing, you will not want to leave. So, don’t. Plan on camping at the myriad of primitive campsites and enjoy this playground for several days. And, if you think you’re being watched, you probably are, by resident bighorn sheep. They seem to be as curious about us as we are of them, so spend a few quiet moments enjoying the iconic desert wildlife. It will be the highlight of your day! http://logandaletrails.com/
Immediately past Liston Avenue on the right-hand side, you will see a big red brick building which looks to be an historic school house. It is the Old Logandale School Historical and Cultural Society, OLSHACS. With its fascinating collection of historical photos and exhibits, you’ll want to be sure to check it out. Check online for operating hours at http://www.olshacs.org/ as they vary.
Continue on SR-169 to the quaint community of Overton. It’s a great place to get an ice cream cone, snacks, water, supplies, etc. But save time for the Lost City Museum — it is impeccably maintained and is a fabulous museum covering the ancient Lost City and Native Americans. ‘Nuff said, you have to stop here — you will not regret it. In fact, the museum staff and docents change the exhibits so often that you will want to make this a regular stop when you are in the area. It will always amaze you! http://nvculture.org/lostcitymuseum/
Continue south on SR-169 and you will leave lovely Moapa Valley behind and head towards a national recreation area, a state park, and a famous ghost town risen from the depths of Lake Mead. This is St. Thomas which will provide you with another opportunity to hike and enjoy the fresh air. Wayside exhibits will soon be installed that will bring the daily routines of these hardy settlers to life. Be sure to take plenty of water as you wander among the ruins. Turn left by the toll booth of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and follow the dirt road. An amazing webpage of info is well worth checking out at https://www.nps.gov/lake/learn/nature/st-thomas-nevada.htm.
Further on down SR-169 is the famous Valley of Fire State Park. There is an entrance fee which lets you spend endless hours enjoying the scenic beauty and cultural history in this area. They have an informative, engaging Visitor’s Center that is a not-to-miss stop. Just to convince you that this is a must-see, check out their website at http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire.
Now it’s decision time. You can continue through Valley of Fire State Park to exit 75 on I-15, or you can backtrack to SR-169 and turn left. At the toll booth, SR-169 becomes the North Shore Road where you enter Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This is one of the most scenic paved drives in the Southwest, and you will be mesmerized by the surrounding desert beauty. You can leave the North Shore Road at Boulder City, Henderson, or North Las Vegas, or do like the locals do and drive to Calville Bay to enjoy the sunset and a leisurely drive back to the best hidden treasure around, Moapa Valley.