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An oasis for birds, waterfowl, fish and wildlife in the midst of Nevada's Great Basin desert surrounds little-known Adams-McGill Reservoir. This nearly 15,000-acre wetland is located in the White River Valley of Nevada's Silver Trails Region. Although planned for wildlife habitat, the area has plenty to offer human visitors. Five man-made reservoirs, of which Adams-McGill is the largest, provide wetland margins, shallows, wet meadows and slow-moving creek beds for the wealth of migratory birds, waterfowl and endangered native fishes. The rewarding rainbow trout and largemouth bass fishing in the reservoirs is almost an afterthought; the Wayne E Kirch Wildlife Management Area is primarily for the birds, fish and small mammals.
The expansive Kirch Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is operated by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, which has made a few concessions for the human visitors to this unique, windswept basin. Four of the five reservoirs have been stocked with fish, and each holds several boat ramps for visiting boat owners. Boats are necessary because there is little shore fishing permitted. Visitors can fish from the dams, but the majority of the shorelines are off-limits to humans and reserved for wildlife. As boat speeds are limited to a maximum of five nautical miles per hour, there are no power boaters or sport boaters to disturb the wildlife. Anglers are just as likely to use float tubes as boats on these waters. No motors at all are allowed on the lower part of Dacey Reservoir from February 15th to August 15th. Canoes and kayaks are possible but likely not a good choice, because the reservoirs are noted for windy conditions and often get quite rough.
No fish stocking is provided at small Tule Reservoir due to its extreme low water level much of the year. Fishing on Dacey Reservoir, Adams-McGill Reservoir, Cold Springs Reservoir and Haymeadow Reservoir is limited to certain areas and certain periods of the year to allow for undisturbed nesting and feeding waterfowl. Anglers are expected to acquaint themselves with the unique regulations for each reservoir and to obtain the appropriate license. 'Put-and-take' rainbow trout are stocked twice a year at the larger reservoirs and are the target of early spring fly fishermen. Later, when the sun warms the waters, largemouth bass enjoy playing cat-and-mouse with anglers. The bass and bullheads maintain their populations without stocking. Both trout and bass are known to reach near-trophy size at Kirch Wildlife Management Area. The WMA is about 70 miles south of Ely and 200 miles northwest of Las Vegas, so most fishermen are either local or come prepared to stay at the campground nearby.
Little Dave Deacon Campground is a mile or so away from the reservoirs, set in a small grove of cottonwoods which provide the only shade in the area. The campground holds about 20 campsites, a few with shade shelters, and is at the end of seven miles of gravel road. For those lucky enough to find it, the campground is essentially free to camp and has vault toilets, picnic tables, grills and fire rings. Drinking water outlets are provided as is an RV dump station. Campers are impressed with the views, the solitude and the opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing. A small hot spring is located not far away. The landscape offers a variety of scenic panoramas, from the nearby Great Basin Mountain Range to the sagebrush flats and wildflower-dotted wet meadows.
Area wildlife include pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, smaller dessert dwellers and reptiles. The shallows and lake margins shelter 'dipping' ducks, herons, amphibians and spawning fish. Overhead a variety of songbirds and birds of prey such as osprey, cormorants and eagles fly. At night, the silence is broken by choruses of coyotes in the surrounding hills. And by day, the miles of dirt roads and trails can be explored by four-wheel-drive vehicles, mountain bikes and on foot. Hunting is allowed in some portions of the WMA in season by permit.
Near the western edge of Kirch WMA, the Hot Creek Refugium offers protected waters in Hot Creek Springs and parts of Hot Creek for the preservation of the rare Moorman White River springfish. The Refugium is a designated National Natural Landmark. Hot Creek Springs also provides protection to the endangered White River speckled dace, White River spinedace and the White River desert sucker. Although the lands surrounding the Kirch WMA look vast and empty, few small locations containing such wet meadows and year-round water sources exist. It was the rarity of such native habitat that caused the Nevada Department of Wildlife to purchase the former Adams-McGill ranch lands in 1961. Since that time, the Department has worked to improve the available habitat.
The Adams-McGill Reservoir-then called Sunnyside Reservoir-was first created by damming the White River in 1916. The dam was rebuilt in 1961, and the other four reservoirs were created at later dates. Adams-McGill Reservoir covers 783 acres and reaches 10 feet deep. Dacey Reservoir, built in the early 1960s, is 185 acres and serves mostly to regulate water in the adjacent Dacey Marsh. Cold Springs Reservoir covers 275 acres when full, and Haymeadow Reservoir is 190 acres. Although some of the reservoirs are kept at near full pool as much as possible, others are allowed to get considerably lower in late summer and early fall when there is little inflow from the surrounding intermittent streams. Through judicious used of controlled burns, controlled grazing and selective herbicide use, the Nevada Dept. of Wildlife keeps the WMA's lake margins and wet meadows in top condition to support the maximum number and variety of migrating birds. Without such balancing, encroaching native and invasive plants would soon reduce the amount of habitat attractive to this wide variety of species.
Other than campgrounds, there are no lodgings available within the WMA itself. Outside the WMA boundaries, guest cabins, ranch stays and small motels can be found along Highway 93 and in the larger towns in the surrounding area. This area of Nye County holds several picturesque old ghost towns from its silver mining days that are well worth a visit, and several nearby small businesses garner an income catering to tourists interested in nearby "Area 51" legends and lore. But amid the history and the amusement value, the solitude of the Kirch Wildlife Management Area and Adams-McGill Reservoir presents the true call of wild Nevada. Here, it's all for the birds and wildlife. You are only their guest. Heed the invitation soon!
* Statistics are for Adams-McGill Reservoir only. No statistics are available for Tile Reservoir.
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