The lower Virgin River from just north of the Town of Mesquite to the Overton Arm is located in extreme southern Nevada within the northeast portion of Clark County. The riparian habitat of the river consists of a mixture of lowland riparian vegetation. The riparian vegetation includes coyote and Gooding's willow, arrow weed, cottonwood, tamarisk, cattail, quailbush, wolfberry, mesquite and various sedges and grasses. The Riverside Bridge bisects the river in Nevada and the river has unique qualities to the north and south of the Bridge. To the north, the River is somewhat channelized and much of the native riparian habitat is supplied via run-off from irrigation from private landowners. Immediately to the south of the Riverside Bridge there are considerable meanders in the Virgin River with an array of different types of native riparian vegetation, including some marshes and several patches of native willow. Depending on the water level of Lake Mead, there is a delta that forms where the river meets the Lake. The water flows of the Virgin River are influenced by snow pack within the mountains in southwestern Utah, and the river is subject to flooding from summer monsoon events. As well, diversions on the river include the Quail Reservoir in Utah, urban uses in Mesquite, Nevada and St. George, Utah. Some diversions occur on the river for agriculture uses. Land Ownership consist of Bureau of Land Management (BLM), private, state lands, Nevada Division of Wildlife (NDOW), Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), and National Park Service (NPS).

Ornithological Summary

The Virgin River is one of the few Rivers in Nevada that still has meanders and is not influenced by dams. The Virgin River is also the only intact river in the Mojave Desert of Nevada. All of the Endangered birds in Nevada occur on the Virgin River and many of the birds identified in the Lowland Riparian section of the Nevada Bird Conservation Plan occur on the Virgin River.

Conservation Issues

The Southern Nevada Water Authority owns extensive surface water rights in the Virgin River and plans to build an off-stream reservoir to store water before piping it to Las Vegas. This facility could affect surface flows downstream from the diversion point.

Ownership

Private land occurs in small parcels throughout the river. The Bureau of Reclamation has been acquiring lands, on the Virgin River as part of mitigation for habitat losses relative to the S.W. Willow Flycatcher. Trespass cattle occur on the Virgin River and have grazed some riparian habitat. The Bureau of Land Management is working to address the situation. Water issues include ground water development and water rights acquisitions. There is concern that land development efforts in Lincoln County could affect the Virgin River. The Fish and Wildlife Service and Lincoln County have entered into a process to assess and monitor the affects. Surface water diversions and transfer of agricultural water are occurring in the Mesquite area primarily for golf courses. Water rights cannot be addressed as they are legally acquired. Watershed concerns are to be addressed via the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

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