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Wildlife & Habitat

Birds landing in a marsh

The Stillwater wetlands are well-known to birders because of the hundreds of thousands of shorebirds, such as Long-billed dowitcher, Black-necked stilt, and American avocet (above) passing through during migration (in a normal to above average water year). The refuge is an area of International Importance within the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network (external link) 

  • Average Water forecast this year

    summer sunset150

     A bit of water relief for Nevada in 2016. Winter snow and spring rains provided near normal water levels in the Carson River watershed this year, which was more promising than the past few years. However, we are still in a drought and a hot dry summer with no measurable precipitation since May has changed our water outlook.

    The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District conducted a special meeting in August to consider conditions that may apply to the current water delivery season.  The allocation remains at 75% through the end of the season, with deliveries expected to end mid-September. However, further adjustments could be made by the district at any time as the summer progresses 

    For the most part, Stillwater NWR has seen a positive impact on wildlife, migratory birds and public use with the additional water this year. Sanctuary wetlands still hold the most water with migrating shorebirds, waders and waterfowl benefitting from the increase in habitat. 

    In the hunt area, Goose Lake will have the only water available for waterfowl season. 

    Wildlife-dependent recreation permitted at Stillwater NWR includes: wildlife observation, hunting (in season), environmental education, interpretation and photography. Please remember that Wildlife Comes First on a refuge, so if your actions cause animals to move, sound alarms or change their behavior, then you are creating a disturbance and should move away or modify your actions. Wildlife harassment is harmful and illegal. 

    Click this link for the Great Basin drought monitoring website, which has lots of other links for water and drought information. Another good site with information is the Great Basin water network Nevada drought forum. Finally, the NRCS in Nevada posts historical records of water and snowpack across the state.

    The link below (Learn More) shows the most current map of refuge wetlands. Water is now flowing north of Division Road into the Goose Lake unit, within the refuge hunt area. Click here for the latest updates on water levels and flows within Stillwater NWR as conditions change weekly during the irrigation season.

    Learn More
  • Stillwater Sights and Sounds

    yellow headed bb

    Yellow-headed blackbirds are common migrants through the Stillwater marsh in spring and summer. Males stake out territories among the cattails to attract a female and build their nest. Red-wing and Brewers blackbirds also are common, along with thousands of songbirds, shorebirds, wading birds, raptors, and waterfowl in normal water years.

    Learn More
  • Water is Life for Wetlands

    resouce mgmt page

    Stillwater NWR is irrigated from the Carson River through a series of canals and delivery ditches, operated by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District in Fallon NV. The refuge is the largest water rights owner in the Lahontan Valley, and has an active Realty division which has Federal authority to purchase water rights from area landowners, through a 'willing seller/buyer' program. This helps to provide water critical to maintaining these unique desert wetlands. 

    In low water years, priority maintenance projects can be completed on water control structures, delivery canals, bridges and access roads. Watch for heavy equipment on the refuge during the week, especially in summer when dry conditions exist.  

    Water flow readings from meters placed throughout the Lahontan Valley, including Stillwater NWR and the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribal wetlands, are monitored regularly to ensure the wetlands receive the correct water deliveries from the irrigation district. 

    Stillwater NWR has staff gauges in most wetlands units which are checked more frequently. Results from staff gauge measurements are available here

Last Updated: Aug 27, 2016
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