Opening Saturday for Moapa refuge

A little-seen national wildlife refuge about an hour from the Strip will once again open to visitors on Saturdays starting this weekend.

The Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge, which closed for the summer in late May, will be open and staffed by volunteers from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. one day a week starting Saturday.

For three decades, there have been no public facilities to speak of at the refuge, which was established to protect an endangered fish, the Moapa dace.

In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service opened the 117-acre sanctuary, 60 miles north of Las Vegas, for the first time on a limited basis with the help of volunteers.

The refuge’s centerpiece exhibit is a viewing chamber, basically a windowed cross-section of a spring-fed stream, with an eye-level look at the dace in its natural habitat.

The display was finished by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007, but public access has been limited to a handful of special events.

The rest of the time it has been locked away behind a fence because of a lack of funds and staffing.

Moapa Valley National Refuge is off state Route 168, which runs between Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 93 northeast of Las Vegas.

Officials hope to keep it open on Saturdays through Memorial Day 2010.

Also set to reopen this weekend is the visitor station at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, which takes in 1.6 million acres about 25 miles northwest of Las Vegas on U.S. Highway 95.

Starting today, the station will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and Monday holidays.

The wildlife refuge is open year round. The visitor station is at Corn Creek, which is the main entrance to the wildlife refuge off U.S. 95.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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