What Is Going on at Longstreet Spring?
You might have noticed a lot of activity at Longstreet Spring, lately, and wondering why the spring and cabin are closed temporarily. Part of our ecosystem restoration efforts at Ash Meadows NWR includes occasional restoration of springhead pools. Many springs were altered for agriculture before Ash Meadows became a refuge in 1984, including Longstreet Spring. When Jack Longstreet built his cabin next to the pool, it wasn’t as large as it is now. In fact, it was approximately 50% smaller! The earliest known aerial imagery shows extensive impact to the system for agricultural uses by the year 1948. The diversion of spring water into irrigation channels altered the natural flow through the slough, and it was likely during this period that the spring pool was enlarged to increase flow.
Longstreet Spring once contained a springsnail that only occurred at this spring. The Longstreet Springsnail (Pyrgulopsis spp.) is now extinct due to modification of its habitat associated with the enlargement of the spring pool and altered outflow stream channel. Increasing the size of the spring pool causes the water to cool more quickly. Reducing the size of the spring pool will help maintain higher water temperature further down the outflow, which is beneficial to our remaining native aquatic species (pupfish, snails, beetles, and other aquatic invertebrates).
Unfortunately, increasing the size of the spring pool also created a very shallow shelf, producing very dense cattail growth and providing optimal habitat for several invasive species. Introduced predators, such as bullfrogs and crayfish, now prey on endangered Ash Meadows Amargosa pupfish and Ash Meadows speckled dace throughout the system. Prior to eradication efforts at Longstreet Spring in 2011, the shallow water also provided breeding habitat for non-native fish. Limiting shallow areas will prevent cattail encroachment and reduce invasive species populations, giving opportunity for our special native fishes to flourish.
To reduce the size of the Longstreet Spring pool, a habitat restoration crew will place large pieces of caliche (“ka-lee'-chee,” white rock you see all around the boardwalk, cabin, and springhead) around the shallow shelf and fill spaces in between with cobbles, gravel, and sand. An angled drop to the spring orifice will help prevent cattail growth and return the spring to its natural shape.
Springhead restoration has only been conducted on one other system.Kings Spring was also reduced in size after it had been enlarged for agriculture, so stop by to see a successful example of how this technique works. Annual native fish surveys reveal that the pupfish in Kings Spring are now doing very well, and non-native species diminished.