Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge is a rarely visited bird sanctuary in the middle of the West Desert of Utah. The reason it is rarely visited is that it requires several hours of driving on dirt roads to access. Luckily, it pairs beautifully with the Dugway Geode beds, which is only a few miles away.
Despite the long drive, we absolutely loved the refuge! We counted 50 species of wild animals on this trip. We found ourselves in a herd of wildhorses, spotted a great horned owl, saw four secretive bitterns, and recorded our first horned lizard. Our kids proclaimed it the best day trip we’d ever done despite five hours on dusty washboard roads.
The best access for Fish Springs from the Wasatch Front is to head south of Tooele. Turn right onto Pony Express Road, which almost immediately becomes a dirt road. It’s easy to find following signs, and Google Maps worked for us as long as we put in the destination before leaving service. As for the road, it had smooth spots that you could travel 45-50 mph, but some that required 15-20 mph with a few big holes. We wouldn’t make this trip in a car, but our van had plenty of clearance.
There is a Visitor Center for the refuge, and they hooked us up with a map and the best place to spot animals. They also gave us a refuge checklist. We saw 33 species of birds on the refuge including a few rarities. Bitterns, great egrets, curlews, pelicans, and eared grebes all got us excited. There were also two snakes, rabbits, and tons of tiny fishes and frogs.
The auto tour drive around the refuge is 11 miles, but there are quite a few miles of other open roads that you are welcome to drive. We also did two short walks on the ranger’s recommendation. On the first, we scared up the bitterns as well as more than a dozen black-crowned night herons.
If you are a bird lover and enjoy solitude, Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge is an amazing destination. Plan an entire day. We also have a few pointers below.
- Make sure to pair the refuge with a stop at the Dugway Geode Beds.
- Stop for a driving break at Simpson Springs.
- Make sure the tank is filled up. We used about 5/8 of a tank of gas, and there is no place to fill up.
- Have the means to change a tire if necessary.
- Enter coordinates before leaving service.
- Pack food. There are no services out in this area. We took lunch and lots of snacks.