Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Quick Facts

Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge


(775) 779-2237

Map Directions

Things To Do


Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge lies at the southern end of the Ruby Valley in northeast Nevada. Located at an elevation of 6,000 feet and flanked on the west by the rugged and scenic Ruby Mountains, it is one of the most remote refuges in the lower 48 states. The refuge encompasses 39,928 acres and consists of a marsh bordered by meadows, grasslands, and brush-covered uplands.

It serves as a magnet for a wide diversity of wildlife species and is strategically located along migration corridors serving both the Pacific and Central Flyways. The refuge has been identified as one of 500 Globally Important Bird Areas by the American Bird Conservancy.

The National Park Service designated the South Marsh a National Natural Landmark because of the biological diversity and pristine condition of the habitat. The refuge is one of the most important waterfowl nesting areas in the Great Basin and intermountain West.

The South Marsh supports the largest population of nesting canvasback ducks west of the Mississippi River (outside Alaska), and holds the highest concentration of nesting canvasbacks in North America. Due to habitat loss elsewhere in the Great Basin, the refuge has become increasingly important to resident wildlife, including mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and sage grouse. The refuge fishery is popular with local anglers.

Map of Ruby Lake NWR

Latitude, Longitude: 40.293154, -115.449982



  • Boating

    Boating is allowed on the refuge at different times of the year. From January 1 until June 14 boats are not permitted on the refuge. From June 15 to July 31, South of Brown Dike (South Marsh) ONLY, motor less boats and boats with battery powered electric motors are permitted. Gas motors must be removed from all boats. From August 1 to December 31, In the South Marsh, motor less boats and boats propelled by motors with a total of 10 hp or less are permitted. Boats on trailers can be launched ONLY at the Main Boat Landing and Narciss Boat Landing. Canoes or cartop boats can be launched ONLY at the Main Boat Landing, Narciss Boat Landing, Gravel Pit Pond, and Brown Dike. State law requires a wearable Personal Flotation Decive on board for each person. Boats may be stored at the Main Boat Landing, Narciss Boat Landing, Gravel Pit Pond, and Brown Dike from June 1 through December 31. Trailers may not be stored on the refuge.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The tour loop and refuge roads are accessible on most days - large amounts of moisture can make passage difficult. The auto tour loop is well marked, but stop by the Ruby Lake Headquarters for more information prior to your trek.

  • Fishing

    Fishing is allowed in all marked areas of the refuge, with some areas being wheelchair accessible, all following refuge and state regulations. Trout fishing is best in fall, winter, and early spring. Bass fishing peaks in summer. Fish include largemouth black bass, brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout. There is a state fish hatchery located in the refuge.

  • Historic Sites

    Ruby Valley is rich in history. Evidence of prehistoric people who roamed throughout northeastern Nevada can be found all along the west side of the refuge, in the Ruby Mountains. Numerous springs can be found, as well as abundant food sources including game animals, seeds, nuts, and roots. In 1859, Captain J.H. Simpson explored the valley as an alternative route to the west coast. His account provides a first-hand glimpse of the area.

    Historic markers identify the Hastings Cutoff Trail, which passes through the refuge and continues west by way of Overland Pass-the same route followed by the ill-fated Donner Party. Ruby Valley was also an important stop on the East-West Pony Express route. The log building that served as the Pony Express Station now stands at the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko, Nevada. Ruby Valley was also the home station for the Overland Mail Route and from 1862 to 1869 housed the Fort Ruby Military post, constructed to protect the Overland Mail route from Paiute Indian raiders.

    In 1880, Pennsylvanian Jacob Bressman, his daughter Deby, and Deby's husband, Lew Benson, sold their freight hauling business in nearby Eureka County. They bought cattle, built a cabin, and settled in the Ruby Valley. Their cabin and Jacob's grave site, located on the refuge 1.5 miles north of headquarters, have been preserved and stand as a tribute to these early pioneers.

  • Hunting

    Waterfowl hunting on Ruby Lake's South Marsh is allowed each season following both Nevada State Hunting Regulations and specific Refuge regulations. Please stop by Ruby Lake Refuge Headquarters on your way to the refuge for up to date information. Click the button on the left for a printable map of the hunt area. Be patient, it takes a while to load the image.

    Waterfowl hunters are required to have a HIP (Harvest Information Program) Number. For more information call 1-775-688-1500 or check out the online brochure. Upland bird and large & small game hunting is available on lands adjacent to and near the refuge. Firearms may be transported through the refuge in vehicles ONLY when unloaded and cased, or dismantled. Shotguns are permitted in designated hunting areas during the waterfowl season. State regulations also apply.ATV's and Snowmobiles are not permitted on the refuge.


Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a wetland oasis in Nevada's high desert. This remarkable refuge lies along the eastern flank of the scenic, snow-capped Ruby Mountains. A pristine marsh, meadows, grasslands, and shrub-steppe uplands provide essential habitat for thousands of nesting and migrating waterfowl, water birds, songbirds, and native wildlife.



Visitors must travel 17 to 35 miles of gravel road to reach the refuge from any direction. In summer visitors can travel 65 miles south of Elko on State Highway 228 (paved two-lane) through Spring Creek and Jiggs to County Road 718. Part of County Road 718 over Harrison Pass is a steep, rough, and winding unimproved gravel road.

It is not passable in winter and is never recommended for large trailers or motor homes. Alternate routes, open all year, include U.S. Highway 93 south of Wells to State Highway 229 and County Road 767 (improved gravel), a total of 80 miles; or Interstate 80 at exit 321 through Secret Pass to County Road 767, a total of 90 miles from Elko. A calling card phone is located at Ruby Lake Resort (10 miles north of refuge headquarters).

Phone Numbers


(775) 779-2237