Continuing north from Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Death Valley National Park was going to be our next destination; however, unseasonably warm early-February temperatures across the West had us looking for someplace a little cooler…something I never thought I’d be saying in February! The weather looked ideal up around Alamo, Nevada, a tiny town about two hours north of Las Vegas. Driving through the area on US 93, the casual observer might find the area of little interest. But it is home to two places I’ve been wanting to visit, Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge and Basin and Range National Monument.

Rock art at White River Narrows, Basin and Range National Monument

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Surrounded by the Mojave Desert, Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge is a literal desert oasis. 5,382 acres of protected land provide crucial habitat for a variety of wildlife including over 30 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 60 species of mammals. Pahranagat is located along the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south bird migratory route along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico, making this a popular destination for birding. Thermal springs located north of the refuge provide the water that nourishes the wetlands and lakes here. Trails meander along two lakes as well as through riparian woodland, grasslands, and desert scrub.

Pahranagat is located roughly two hours north of Las Vegas and nine miles south of Alamo, Nevada along US 93. In addition to a nice visitor center and a few trails, Pahranagat offers 15 FREE dry camping sites along the upper lake. Camping is allowed only in the designated sites or in an overflow lot directly across the highway. This has become a popular place and visitors frequently find all of the campsites full. We arrived on a Saturday in early February and had our choice of sites. We were thrilled to score the best site, a single lakefront spot with no close neighbors. Some reviewers complain about the dirt access road. Yes, it was dusty, but it is well-maintained. Others complain about highway noise. Yes, you are below US 93, but we did not find that disruptive at all. We thought these were both small prices to pay for a beautiful lakefront site with Joshua trees for FREE! This was a great location to set up basecamp for exploring Basin and Range National Monument.

View across the upper lake to our campsite
Indy loved the lakefront site & all the sun at Pahranagat

Basin and Range National Monument

Basin and Range National Monument is a 704,000 area protecting remote mountains and valleys in southeastern Nevada. It was created by presidential proclamation in 2015 to protect geological, ecological, cultural, and historical resources. The area is located in a transitional region between the Mojave Desert and the Great Basin. Outdoor opportunities abound here including climbing, hiking, bicycling, camping, and hunting. Our draw to Basin and Range was its exceptional rock art. There are many sites in the region and we only had time to see a couple on this visit giving us an excuse for a future return visit.

White River Narrows is a winding canyon that is home to one of the largest concentrations of prehistoric rock art in eastern Nevada. The petroglyphs at White River provide glimpses into the cultural lives of Native American peoples who lived here from 4,000 years ago until the nineteenth century. The BLM has a great brochure that details six of the rock art sites at White River Narrows. A copy can be obtained at the BLM Caliente Field Office or here online. We visited Narrows sites I – III with Narrows III being the most impressive of the three.

In search of rock art at White River Narrows
Turkey prints and bighorn sheep petroglyphs

The Mount Irish Archaeological District, located on the eastern flank of the Mount Irish Range, is one of the most important archaeological areas in eastern Nevada. The District covers 640 acres with prehistoric rock art set in a dramatic landscape of tuff knolls and outcrops. This area has two main rock art styles, Pahranagat Style and Basin and Range tradition. The Pahranagat Style is a portrayal of people that is found mostly at sites in Pahranagat Valley and is unique to Lincoln County. In this style, people were portrayed in two very different ways. One form has oval or rectangular solid-pecked bodies, large eyes, a short line protruding from the head, and hands that have long fingers. The other form has a rectangular body that has geometric designs or straight lines inside, stick-figure arms and legs. When found, these figures are referred to as Pahranagat Man (or sometimes Lady).

The BLM has a great brochure detailing eleven of the Mt. Irish rock art sites. A copy can be obtained at the BLM Caliente Field Office or here online. We visited Mt. Irish sites III – VI. All four sites were impressive, but I liked sites V and VI best with their Pahranagat Man images.

Wrapping It Up: The Journey Home

With unseasonably warm early-February temperatures persisting across the West, we saw a clear path home. February can be a real crap shoot when traveling across Nevada and Eastern Oregon. We hadn’t planned to return home until the end of February, but you need to take what Mother Nature gives you. Nights would be below freezing, but we saw predicted daytime highs of 60 degrees along our route and at home. It appeared an early spring was on its way—something that is very common in our hometown, especially with current climate trends.

We spent the next few days making the nearly 1,000 mile trip home to Washington State. We spent the first night at Illipah Creek Reservoir west of Ely, Nevada. We had stayed there on our way south in November and it is now a favorite layover location due to its close proximity to the highway, beautiful Nevada views, and the great price of FREE. This had been a cold stopover in November and now the reservoir was completely frozen over—a stark reminder that it was still early February!

Our site above frozen over Illipah Reservoir
Indy was not excited to see so much white stuff

We awoke to 24 degrees at Illipah on morning two, but it was a beautiful travel day. Arriving in Winnemucca that afternoon, we were greeted by sun and 62 degrees. As usual, we stayed at New Frontier RV Park. Their winter rates are very reasonable and their large pull-thru sites mean we don’t even have to unhook.

Waking up to a chilly 24 degrees at Illipah Reservoir

Our final night was spent at the Wildhorse Casino RV Park just outside Pendleton, Oregon. Pendleton is home to Thompson RV where we purchased our Outdoors RV two years ago. We ended up camping directly across from Don and Patti, a lovely retired couple from Oklahoma who had just purchased their first RV from Thompson. We had a great morning visiting with them. Patti and I are now good Facebook friends showing that RV travel isn’t just about the sites and destinations, its about the people you meet along the way.

We arrived home on February 12 to sun and spring-like temperatures after three adventure-filled months on the road. By the following week, winter had returned. A huge snowstorm created a hundred car pileup over Deadman’s Pass where we descended into Pendleton just a week before. At home, we had daytime highs in the teens, a rare event for late February. We had timed the travel window perfectly, but we did not find the early spring we were hoping for. We couldn’t know it at the time, but we were in for one of our coldest and wettest springs ever. These were welcome conditions after last year’s extreme fire season, but we might have stayed on the road a little longer had we known! Still, it was great to be back in our big house with all its space and amenities. And it was great to see family and friends after such a long absence.

The Adventure Continues

Be sure to check out our next post which will give the stats and highlights from our winter trip. And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase (even things as simple as toothpaste!), you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!

Stunning sunset welcoming us home

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