The destination of this hike is an old game warden's cabin tucked into the upper reaches of Deadman Canyon near Wiregrass Spring. The cabin is thought to have originally been built in the 1880s or 90s, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 as one of the few surviving examples of a log cabin in southern Nevada. There are many tales about the cabin, including use by bootleggers, until becoming a game warden's cabin when the Desert National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1936. The cabin was initially considered the Refuge's headquarters until Corn Creek Ranch was purchased in 1939. In 2008/09, the cabin was restored with a new roof, new floor, repairs to some walls, and replacement of broken windows.Hike
The entire hike follows Deadman Canyon gradually up. The canyon is never steep, but the grade is unrelenting and the gravel is deep in places. There is no developed trail, so just follow whichever meanders of the wash look best to you. The route generally follows what used to be a road up to the cabin, but storm flow in the canyon has erased almost all traces of the road. Views along the way are confined to the canyon, where the walls alternate between near-vertical cliffs and sculpted limestone spires.
The hike begins in a lovely Joshua tree forest, gradually transitioning to Pinyon-Juniper, then Ponderosa Pine-White Fir forest as you ascend. This is the Hidden Forest, an unusual desert treat tucked away in a remote canyon of the Sheep Range. Continuing up, enjoy the shade of the trees as you make your way to the historic cabin. The water pipe in front of the cabin is an excellent place for bird watching, with several picnic tables located nearby. It is also interesting to sit here and imagine your life as a long-ago trapper, prospector, or bootlegger.
If you wish to visit Wiregrass Spring, simply follow the steep use trail north of the cabin for approx 0.2 mile. Here, you will find a spring box and a small catchment providing open water for wildlife, primarily bighorn. During times of high spring flow, water flows down the hill below the spring box, giving rise to a field of wiregrass (Juncus
sp.), and giving the spring its name. Wiregrass Spring is also the jumping-off point for a hike to Hayford Peak, the highest point in the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.Water Sources
Water from Wiregrass Spring is piped to the historic cabin and can be collected there for filtering. However, the spring is not reliable during periods of drought, so check with the refuge office.
No camping within 1/4 mile of water developments or springs. Many people camp in or near the historic cabin. There is a toilet due south of the cabin behind a tree - please use it if you camp here. Rodents inhabit the cabin, so secure your food if you intend to camp.