Off the Beaten Path in a Quirky Desert Paradise
Driving to Las Vegas from LA is typically about one thing—how fast can you get there? Next time, plan a couple extra hours to explore a you’ve-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it kind of spot.
A quick, easy detour off Interstate 15, the Amargosa River Natural Area is literally a desert oasis, and it’s just 90 minutes from Las Vegas. If you find yourself near the southern entrance to you’ll discover a river running through North America’s driest and hottest locale. It’s a lush, palm-lined paradise amidst a harsh, desolate desert.
Begin your exploration at the China Ranch Date Farm. The Nature Conservancy partnered with China Ranch to protect this Eden located near the Amargosa River, where the Conservancy has worked for the past 40 years.
“It’s such an important water source,” says Brian Brown, ranch owner. “We’ve got a heavy native wildlife population here. Now, it can’t become a trailer park.”
At the ranch, Brown and his family grow 13 different varieties of dates, in demand around the world. Take a moment to meander through the unique garden featuring 60-foot-tall date palms planted from mail order seeds in the 1920s by Brown’s great-aunt. And don’t forget to taste a date shake!
What to Do in the Amargosa River Area
Hike. There are miles of trails, ranging from the casual 200-yard Creek Trail that leads to picnic tables to the challenging four-mile Slot Canyon Trail that parallels the Amargosa.
Find Water. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the waterfall…yes, there’s a waterfall in the middle of the desert!
See Lovebirds. Spot one of the 250 species of birds that winter here. Migrating birds know it’s the only watering hole for miles around and flock here in numbers rivaling the state’s better known birding spots.
Stargaze. Cruise through Death Valley National Park at night and witness astronomical magic before your very eyes.
Not just pretty places, these wetland habitats surrounded by dry desert environment are home to nearly 50 unique plants and animals —like the pupfish, a rare landlocked fish that can trace its ancestors back to the Ice Age. Additionally, more than 100 species targeted for conservation call this desert paradise their home.