Blooming desert peach

Blooming desert peach,
April 28, 2012

The Jack's Valley Habitat is located south of Carson City between Highway 50 and Jack's Valley Road. According to the wood board at its entrance less than half a mile west of Jack's Valley Elementary School “this area, about 3100 acres, is reserved for management as winter deer range. About 700 acres suffered a fire in 1986. This was reseeded in 1967 to a mixture of plants for forage and ground cover fences were built in 1969 and 1970 to permit grazing under a rest rotation system designed to benefit the deer range while harvesting forage for cattle.”

This wildlife management area (WMA) is particularly dedicated to mule deer. Critical habitat has been lost from wildfires and urban developement. Mule deer herds migrate through western North America and often try to find a range in which to stay for a period of time, especially during winter months. Maintainance of the Jack's Valley WMA helps to improve habitat for mule deer along the Carson Front. Improvement work includes removal of invading cheatgrass, seeding and reseeding of native grasses and treatment of overgrown and crowded bitterbrush and and sagebrush [1].

Many parts of the habitat consist of brush chaparall on sandy soil. Desert peach is growing between sage and bitterbrush. Besides seasonal mule deer populations, this sagebrush ecosystem provides habitat for coyotes, jack rabbits, quail and various other animals including reptiles. The sagebrush provides food, cover and shelter for these animals. Jack's Valley and its surrounding hills and rock outcrops are visited by a variety of animals all year round. An interpretive panel at the habitat entrance explains the gathering and activities of migrating bird species in this area:

Rock column up the sandy trail

Rock column up the sandy trail with
the Carson Range in the background

“Each summer, dozens of bird species migrate to the sagebrush ecosystem in Jack's Valley WMA. Sage sparrow, Brewer's sparraw, and sage thrasher are considered sagebrush obligates and require habitat provided exclusively by the sagebrush ecosystem at some point in their life. Other bird species, such as the black-billed magpie, western meadowlark, loggerhead shrike, and sage grouse also use this sagebrush ecosystem for breeding, shelter, or food. Red-tailed hawks and golden eagles can often be seen soaring above the ground, using thermal updrafts to carry them high above the land to search for prey.”

The sagebrush ecosystem depends on periodic fires for plant regeneration, propagation and nutrient cycling. Fires in this area will not affect the rock outcrops through or over which one may hike on the way up to open forest areas and vista points. No thermal updrafts will take hikers to those places. One has to climb upward over sand and gravel along steep slopes. The path of the trail is neatly indicated by piles of rocks, kindly assembled by previous hikers. At higher elevations visitors will certainly enjoy the interesting rock formations, some covered with colorful lichen and others, suprisingly, sustaining brush growth in fissures and on top of them. The upper habitat sections offer playgrounds for boulder hopping, quiet places for wildlife studies and scenic views of the Carson Valley, River and Range.
small wood stage

Getting to and around in Jack's Valley Habitat

From Highway 395 in Sunridge south of Carson City drive west on Jack's Valley Road. Find the WMA entrance and information boards on the right side of this road, after about two miles from its intersection with Highway 395. The Humboldt-Toiyabe Nat'L Forest board informs that the area is open to off-highway vehicle use (bikes and ATVs) from May to October (approved spark arrestor/muffler and travel on designated routes required) and that it is closed for motorized traffic during the winter months from November 1 to April 30 (for additional information call 775-8822766).

To get to the rock outcrops at higher elevation, follow the sand track northward for less than one mile until you get to the small wood stage shown in the picture. From here a single-track trail continues through the chaparall to the natural rock sculptures and further upward to the open pine forest.

Nearby trails and places of interest



[1] ThisIsReno: U.S. Forest Service employee honored for mule deer conservation March 11, 2010 [].

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