Thursday, July 14, 2011

RANGE REPORT: East Triple B WHA - Elko CO. (2011.JUL.12)

Twelve hours and 200 miles of rough road yielded:
Horses: 2 (Butte Valley)
Deer: 1 (Cherry Creek Canyon)

Antelope: 2 (Butte Valley)
Elk: 0
Cattle: @ 50

Temp: 75-93

The high desert is still relatively green, for mid-July.
Some snow remains on the highest peaks of the Ruby Mountains. Creeks in the higher elevations are slowing, and many of the washes are dry. Grass and vegetation are plentiful in the mountains and foothills.

There are THREE Cherry Springs near the Ruby Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. Two of them are located in the Ruby Mountains, south of Shantytown. The northwestern leg of Cherry Springs Canyon falls within the Cherry Springs Wild Horse TERRITORY.

Ruby Mountains Eastern Slope - Elko County, NV

As there is still snow remaining, and plenty of forage visible, I quickly decided that these short canyons would not be the target of my investigation. The OTHER Cherry Springs, according to locals familiar with the area, would be dry, this time of year.

I stopped at the Ruby Lakes NWR information center and asked where a person might see wild horses?

The agent is new on the job, and anxious to be helpful. She doesn't have the answers, and goes into a back office to inquire of a more experienced agent. I hear him telling her that horses won't likely be visible now, as they will have moved up into the high country where it is cooler. He says that there are wild horses to the south, and to the east of the preserve, and that they are not allowed within the boundaries of the area. (A substantial post-and- barbed wire fence encloses the entire reserve.)

The new agent relays precisely what I had overheard. I asked her if she knew whether BLM had been hauling water to horses in the area?

Oh! Yes! She knew first-hand that they have been collecting water from Ruby Lakes (probably from the fish hatchery), and carrying it to somewhere on the eastern side of the valley. She has no idea what road they were taking, or the exact location they were hauling it to.

There are no roads across the wetland, so we decided to take the northern route. We turned east on Ruby Wash Road, found a small hot spring outside the boundaries of the reserve. There was no sign of recent equine visitation to this oasis, but about a mile away, one small mudhole appeared to have had horse activity within the past few days.

We made several forays up rough roads that ended abruptly on hilltops. From the high points, we could see an abundance of game trails (made by horses, deer, and/or elk).  The road became seriously dusty and difficult, so we decided to change course and look for the southern route.

It strikes me as ironic that the first sign of water shortage is purportedly along the boundaries of one of Nevada's largest wetland areas, and that no tiny corner of this water could be opened up to benefit the horses (the fences are not high enough to exclude deer, elk, or antelope). 

Ruby Lakes National Wildlife Preserve is not within the jurisdiction of BLM.

Ruby Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
Viewed from Cherry Springs Canyon East - Ruby Mountains

Fort Ruby

Ruby Mountains Eastern Slope
Snow remains (2011.JUL.12)

Ruby Lakes National Wildlife Refuge - Ruby Valley - Elko County, NV
Hot Spring is lower left of center - outside the refuge boundaries
No horse activity was seen around this waterhole.

Hot Spring - East of Ruby Lakes

Traveling back to the main road, we found our way to the old Pony Express Route, and followed it east. Again, we made numerous short dead-ended stabs into the back country. From the top of another ridge, we can see a network of meandering dirt roads. One of them almost certainly leads to the elusive Cherry Springs. All of them look rough and dusty.

As the shadows began to grow longer, we began to be concerned about getting back to home base before nightfall. Disappointed,  we decide to head back home ... another 50 miles on rough road, along a different route.

Along the way, we found at least one location where water has obviously been hauled  - no recent sign of activity around that. 

Equine activity - not very recent

Typical mine well in Long Valley, with trough for animals.
This was clean, full, and there were a variety of tracks, including horse, deer, and bovine.

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