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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) 

  • 2016: Average Water Year

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     Even though we had some water relief in 2016, what will 2017 bring? It's anyone's guess at this point, early storm in the Sierra are promising but we need so much more to make up for the several dry years. We are still in a drought and the water outlook for 2017 is up in the air - literally! Come on snow! 

    The Truckee-Carson Irrigation District water delivery season runs from April to September, in a normal water year. The refuge receives residual flows during the Fall from water remaining in delivery canals. Refuge water flows South to North as elevation drops. 

    For the most part, Stillwater NWR saw a positive impact on wildlife, migratory birds and public use with the additional water in 2016. Sanctuary wetlands south of Division Rd. held water for migrating shorebirds, waders and waterfowl in Fall and Winter. 

    In the hunt area, Goose Lake and South Nutgrass lakes were full, and remain open for waterfowl hunting. These units are most easily reached by Division Road, north on Nutgrass Rd. to Navy Cabin Road then west to the signed units on either side of the road. Parking is in designated pullouts, boat launch areas or along the road as long as two wheels remain on the road and a clear lane of travel is open for others to pass. Use caution on or near iced ponds, as freezing and thawing makes walking in heavy gear very dangerous.

    All boat types are allowed in Goose and S. Nutgrass lakes during waterfowl season. Airboat use requires a special use permit, available at no cost from the refuge office in Fallon. Check conditions prior to launch and use caution when operating in the dark. For more information on boating, water and other conditions in the hunt area, call 775/423-5128 ext. 228 Mon - Sat. 

    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 will flow 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.

    Learn More
  • Fall is for Waterfowl

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    Beginning in late August and continuing through the first frosts of Fall, waterfowl - ducks, geese and swans - make their southward journey down the eastern edge of the Pacific Flyway. Thousands of birds travel through the Lahontan Valley in search of a rest stop with open water, food and shelter. Stillwater NWR provides just the right amount of each for these high-flyers as they cross over the vast desert terrain on their way to California and beyond.

    Gadwalls, Mallards, Northern Shovelors, Teal and Canada geese make up the majority of early season migrants. As northern temperature drop and daylight decreases ducks such as Pintail and Canvasback, White-front geese and Tundra Swans navigate their way south. Their V-shaped formations and variety of group honks, quacks and whistles herald their arrival, often at night.

    Waterfowl hunting is an American tradition, and can be traced back several thousand years to the Native American use of hand-crafted decoys used to draw the birds closer to be netted, speared or taken by bow and arrow. Today, waterfowl hunting is just as much about the ability to call or decoy birds as it is about the actual harvest. Stillwater NWR allows waterfowl hunting for ducks, geese and Tundra swans within state and Federal seasons, limits and regulations. Please visit the Visitor Activities page on this site for General Refuge Hunting information, or call the refuge office at 775/423-5128.  

  • Water is Life for Wetlands

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    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 wetland units, and these are checked more frequently during the irrigation season (April - September). 

    Results from December 2016 measurements are (taken prior to ponds icing over): 

    Hunt area: Goose Lake = 2ft, S Nutgrass = has water, staff gauge frozen

    Closed areas:  Cattail = .95ft,  W Dry = 2ft, E Dry = 2.7ft, Doghead = 3.35ft, L Foxtail = 2.7ft,

Last Updated: Dec 23, 2016
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