Harper Dry Lake
Harper Dry Lake Marsh, located at the edge of one of the largest dry lakebeds in the Mojave Desert, is an important resting site for thousands of migrating birds. This Watchable Wildlife viewing area is also an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
The marsh at Harper Dry Lake is not the size it was a century ago. Nonetheless, this small desert oasis consistently attracts resident wetland birds, migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, and many birds of prey.
Birds and Other Wildlife
Many visitors to Harper Dry Lake take a serious interest in wild birds. Marsh Wrens, Virginia Rails, Short-eared Owls, and American Bitterns can be found in the densely-vegetated marshes.White-faced Ibises, Snowy Egrets,
Great Blue Herons, White Pelicans, Tricolored Blackbirds, and numerous species of waterfowl are found around the open-water ponds. The mud flats in the area support Killdeer, Snowy Plover, Mountain Plover, Black-necked Stilts, and American Avocets. Trees and snags reveal Kestrels, Kingbirds, Long-eared Owls, and Black-crowned Night Herons.
Saltbush scrublands next to the marsh provide habitat for a variety of Neotropical migratory birds, such as warblers, sparrows, bluebirds, and grosbeaks. In the sky above are found nearly all birds of prey known to Southern California, including Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, Prairie Falcons, and Ferruginous Hawks.
Besides birds, a variety of other wildlife may be found at Harper Dry Lake, including several lizard species, like the Desert Horned and Zebratail. Also found here are coyotes, jack rabbits, bobcats, and two animals listed as threatened, the Desert Tortoise and the Mojave Ground Squirrel.
The Importance of Water
Water levels at the Harper Dry Lake marsh have dropped dramatically in the last seventy years, primarily due to a long period of agricultural development. During this time, a meager amount of water runoff from nearby agricultural fields maintained a small, remnant marsh system on the southeastern corner of the dry lake. This source of water was eliminated by a recent land ownership transfer.
Because a reliable source of water is essential to the continued existence of the site, efforts are underway to ensure such a source for the future. These projects include the installation of a well and piping system to help enhance lakebed water flow, anticipated to be completed during 1999. With a reliable source of water, the marsh at Harper Dry Lake will continue to be one of the most important wetlands in the Mojave Desert.
The Settlement of Harper Valley
In the latter part of the 19th century, settlement in Harper Valley began in earnest. In 1869, J.W. Robinson and his partner made a temporary camp in an area of green pastures and mesquite located on the eastern shoreline of Harper Dry Lake.
Three years later, C.S. Black built an adobe cabin near here, established a cattle ranch, and began operating a stagecoach stop. Black's Ranch, also called Grant's Station, became a prominent landmark.
How to Get Here
From Interstate 15, west of Barstow, California, take State Highway 58 for 18 miles, to Harper Lake Road. Turn north and travel for about six miles. Turn east (to the right) on Lockhart Road, a partially-maintained dirt road, and drive two miles to the site.
For More Information
Call the Barstow Field Office at (760) 252-6000, Monday - Friday (7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.).