U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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Ruby Lake
National Wildlife Refuge

HC 60 Box 860
Ruby Valley, NV   89833 - 9802
E-mail: guy_wagner@fws.gov
Phone Number: 775-779-2237
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
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Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge lies at the southern end of the Ruby Valley in northeast Nevada. Located at an elevation of 6,000 feet and flanked on the west by the rugged and scenic Ruby Mountains, it is one of the most remote refuges in the lower 48 states. The refuge encompasses 39,928 acres and consists of a marsh bordered by meadows, grasslands, and brush-covered uplands.

It serves as a magnet for a wide diversity of wildlife species and is strategically located along migration corridors serving both the Pacific and Central Flyways. The refuge has been identified as one of 500 Globally Important Bird Areas by the American Bird Conservancy.

The National Park Service designated the South Marsh a National Natural Landmark because of the biological diversity and pristine condition of the habitat. The refuge is one of the most important waterfowl nesting areas in the Great Basin and intermountain West.

The South Marsh supports the largest population of nesting canvasback ducks west of the Mississippi River (outside Alaska), and holds the highest concentration of nesting canvasbacks in North America. Due to habitat loss elsewhere in the Great Basin, the refuge has become increasingly important to resident wildlife, including mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and sage grouse. The refuge fishery is popular with local anglers.

Getting There . . .
Visitors must travel 17 to 35 miles of gravel road to reach the refuge from any direction. In summer visitors can travel 65 miles south of Elko on State Highway 228 (paved two-lane) through Spring Creek and Jiggs to County Road 718. Part of County Road 718 over Harrison Pass is a steep, rough, and winding unimproved gravel road.

It is not passable in winter and is never recommended for large trailers or motor homes. Alternate routes, open all year, include U.S. Highway 93 south of Wells to State Highway 229 and County Road 767 (improved gravel), a total of 80 miles; or Interstate 80 at exit 321 through Secret Pass to County Road 767, a total of 90 miles from Elko. A calling card phone is located at Ruby Lake Resort (10 miles north of refuge headquarters).

Fuel and basic groceries are not always available in Ruby Valley; and there are no sales outlets for State hunting and fishing licenses. Contact the refuge headquarters for current information.

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Management Activities
Management programs focus on maintaining and restoring native habitats. The refuge encompasses a large variety of wetland and upland vegetation types. Refuge wetlands include permanently and seasonally flooded shallow marsh (a mosaic of open water, bulrush stands, and islands) and infrequently flooded alkali playas.

These habitats are critical to the existence of many species of wildlife because wetlands are rare in the Great Basin high desert. The islands and bulrush provide nesting sites for waterfowl, marsh bird, and songbird species. Submerged marsh plants growing in open water areas provide feeding sites for birds. Water elevations in some marsh units are controlled to provide nesting and feeding areas for waterfowl and other marsh birds.

Vegetation in the meadows and grasslands is managed to provide nesting cover and feeding areas for wildlife. Transition areas between marsh and upland habitats are dominated by sedges, rushes, grasses, and forbs. Meadows and grasslands are important to migratory birds for feeding and nesting. Grasslands, which contain a different complex of vegetation than meadows because grassland soils are drier, provide nesting cover for waterfowl and songbirds.

These areas also support large populations of small mammals, which are an important food source for birds of prey. Over time, vegetation in meadows and grasslands becomes heavily matted and nesting habitat is lost. Prescribed fire is used to remove matted vegetation, restoring nesting habitat. Cattle grazing and haying are used as habitat management tools to provide feeding areas for birds.

Shrub-steppe upland habitat dominates the dryer sites on the refuge. Sagebrush is the principal shrub species on the west side of the marsh, and greasewood dominates the east side. Great Basin wild rye, a prevalent grass species, is abundant in the shrub-steppe and grassland plant communities. Migratory and resident bird species use shrub-steppe areas for feeding and nesting.