CAMPING: Hot springs and Wayne E Kirch Wildlife Management Area

Andy was about to leave Las Vegas and head back to LA, so we decided to do an overnight trip somewhere within three hours. I was super busy with work, so he took the reins on this one. We headed north out of Las Vegas on route 93. Driving out to the desert has not ceased to dazzle me yet, and this trip was no different, with the blue skies stretching far off into the distance, and perfectly spaced tufts of puffy clouds leading to the rocky shapes of the mountains. We left later in the day than we had planned, and weren’t in any particular rush to get to where we were going, which I still wasn’t completely sure of. “There will be water,” he promised me. Temps have been in the 100s here in Vegas, so I was thrilled to hear that.

desert landscape with mountains and big blue sky with fluffy clouds
Nevada Desert

After switching to 318 north, we eventually arrived at the Wayne E Kirch Wildlife Management Area. If you’ve been following my adventures, you’ll know that I did an overnight at another Wildlife Area a few months back, and it was part of a network of Preserves managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Wayne E. Kirch, however, is extra special. This land is under the protection of the Department of Wildlife within the State of Nevada. It has a particularly lush ecosystem with everything from endemic fish to big game. The diversity was just beyond what you'd find at some of the other Nevada osases.

Getting there requires driving the last few miles down a gravel road, at which point you have some options: The hot springs, the campground, and the reservoir. We drove around a bit to scope it out, and decided to spend the sunset at the reservoir. Upon arriving there was a couple kayaking on the water, but they soon left, leaving us as the lake’s stewards for the rest of the evening. There was a little wooden dock for launching watercraft, and we alternated sitting on the dock and the roof of Andy’s van, watching the sun turn the mountains different colors as it set.


A desert oasis with a reservoir and mountains in the distance
Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area - Looking out over the reservoir from the van roof

A desert reservoir with lush grasslands and a sunlit mountain
Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area - A further progression of the sunset over the reservoir

A dock leading out to a desert reservoir with mountains in the distance
Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area - The dock leading out to the reservoir

After it was dark, we headed over to the hot springs. Earlier in the day, there were probably about 10 people hanging around, but now there wasn’t a soul. We could see there was a big pool of clear water, with bright red crayfish strolling along the bottom. I found a few toads as we followed the edge the water. The thing was... the water wasn’t exactly hot. It was a warm spring, which is actually perfect for summer daytime dips, but I was already too cold (as usual) now that the sun was down, to swim in anything below 100 degrees.

The decision was made to come back to the hot spring morning, so we drove off again to settle down for the night at the campground. The campground was free, and although there was a host, we were the only vehicle until much later that evening. Each site had a wooden half dome shape over a picnic table - however, the dome was facing north/south, which is pretty useless against the intense Nevada sun that shines from east/west. Who designed these sites?! As I mentioned, the sun was already down at this point, so we didn’t have to deal with that catastrophic design flaw.


Flat landscape with interspersed trees and camping rings
Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area - Hot creek campground

A van next to a camping shade
Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area - Hot creek campground awkward picnic table cover

Around 7am the next morning, we headed immediately for the hot spring to set up a little area with our chairs and coffee. In the sunlight, the spring was absolutely magnificent. Truly magical. To clear to be real, the captivating crystal blue water of the hot spring was divided into two larger pools. Small channels took the water through a system of reeds, which were just as clear as the pools. We soaked and explored and drank iced coffee for several hours, really just sitting in the blissfulness of the morning. Only one other family with older children was there during this time.


A crystal clear, blue hot spring pool
Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area - Hot spring pool

A blonde woman laughing in a hot spring
Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area - Swimming in the hot spring

A woman sitting in a hot spring channel holding a cup
Wayne E. Kirch Wildlife Management Area - Hot spring channel

Starting the drive home, but we stopped at the Lower Pahranagat Lake, which is part of one of those BLM managed preserves. We had pulled over because Andy has a drone that we were trying to get to work, but the toy was malfunctioning, and I was just so hot. By the next time he looked over, I was already halfway out into the lake. It was a strange lake though, the water never dropped, it was a consistent two feet with a bed of green vegetation not too far under the surface. Andy eventually joined me, as well as his dog Ruby, and we just soaked there for a while. That lake was also more sulfurous than the warm springs, because all my sterling silver jewelry was black when I got out - something that silver does when it comes into contact with sulfur.


A blonde woman in front of a desert lake
Lower Pahranagat Lake

A desert lake with mountains in the background
Lower Pahranagat Lake

For a fast overnight, I honestly can’t wait to go back to this place, even though it’s a full three hours away for basically the draw of a hot spring and a reservoir. That tells you how incredible the springs were! It made me really interested in doing a deeper dive into some true secret hot springs, the kind you have to find on google maps by zooming in because the location can't be found anywhere. Have you ever hunted for hot springs?

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