Exploring Amargosa Valley in Death Valley

The Amargosa Valley stretches north of Death Valley Junction along Highway 124 and crosses the state line into Nevada. The Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge offers a lovely side trip.

There is no gas in the Amargosa Valley. The closest gas station is in Furnace Creek, 31 miles west, or Pahrump, Nevada, 30 miles east. The convenience store at the Longstreet Inn and Casino offers basic groceries and supplies. There is also an ATM, Wi-Fi, and cell phone reception inside the hotel. The closest official park information is inside the park at Furnace Creek, but both the Longstreet and Amargosa hotel staff are friendly and may be able to answer questions about the area.

Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Fossil water, melted from the last ice age, supplies this largest remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert and home to nearly 30 endemic plant and animal species. The springs of the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (610 Springs Meadows Rd., Amargosa Valley, NV, 775/372-5435, sunrise-sunset daily, free) are clear and warm, reflecting blue against rocky hills and an austere desert backdrop.

A woman walk down a caged pathway in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
Visitors are kept to a caged overlook when visiting the Devil’s Hole spring. Devil’s Hole is a restricted area of the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge because it’s the only natural habitat of the Devil’s Hole pupfish, an endangered species. Photo © Ken Lund, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike.

However, if things had gone according to plan, you might have been shopping at a select retail space instead of admiring native plants. It’s hard to believe, but this was almost a large-scale housing development in the 1980s, complete with shops, 34,000 homes, hotels, airports, and all the comforts of planned living. It was saved from that fate by efforts from the Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which ultimately purchased the land.

Beautiful and serene, a visit to the oasis is an enjoyable hour or two. There are easy interpretive trails, accessible to wheelchairs, and a visitors center (9am-4:30pm daily) with exhibits and a bookstore. In addition to clear waters and native flora and fauna, the refuge is known for Devil’s Hole, managed by Death Valley National Park. Devil’s Hole is a geothermal pool surfacing in a limestone cave that goes more than 500 feet deep. Its claims to fame are the rare Devil’s Hole Pupfish and the fact that the bottom has never been found. A visit to the site will confirm that it is, indeed, a very deep hole.

Hotels and Restaurants

The Longstreet Inn and Casino (4400 Hwy. 373, Amargosa Valley, 775/372-1777, from $65) is outside California, just far enough into Nevada to make the casino legal. Most people don’t come here for the slots, but it is the only option in town if you want a hotel room, a restaurant, and a bar rolled into one. Located just eight miles north of Highway 190, the main eastern route into the park, it’s a good lodging alternative to the pricier options in Death Valley.

The rooms are basic budget rooms, but after a day of exploring in the desert, the Longstreet has what you need: Wi-Fi, a laundry room, a convenience store, a bar, and a restaurant. There is also a 51-space RV Resort. An outdoor pool is open in summer. The café (7am-9pm daily, $9-19) serves basic American food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I don’t know if there were ever grand visions for the Longstreet, but at this point it has settled into what it is, a basic and friendly lodging and watering hole that attracts an unlikely mix of locals and travelers. Depending on the time of day, expect friendly bartenders, fried food, and old-timers singing karaoke.

Getting There

From Death Valley Junction, head north on Highway 127 for 7.5 miles, continuing as it crosses the Nevada state line and turns into Highway 373. The Longstreet Inn and Casino will be on the left just across the state line and marks the beginning of the Amargosa Valley.

To reach the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, continue north on Highway 373 and turn right (east) onto Spring Meadows Road; drive 5 miles to the refuge entrance. Plan one hour for the drive from Furnace Creek.

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