Saratoga Spring is a colorful marsh area with three large reflective ponds set against the backdrop of the Ibex Hills which contains pupfish, frogs, birds, wildflowers, and mining ruins. Difficulties encountered on visiting the area include having the proper HC (high clearance) vehicle to reach the parking area, avoiding sinking into areas of deep mud when walking on the west side path, and treading lightly on all areas around the ponds. A Google Earth map of the walking route (turned to the east for better viewing) can be found by clicking on the button above. GPS coordinates for the parking area are 35° 40.840'N, 116° 25.258'W.
After hiking the Ibex Dunes one morning in early 2016, I drove over to spend some time at Saratoga Spring. When touring the southern section of the park, it makes sense to visit both destinations on the same day since they are in such close proximity to each other. This was my second lifetime visit to Saratoga Spring (with the other being in March of 2006). Saratoga Spring is often pluralized as Saratoga Springs, which makes sense because there are actually several spring mouths which keep the ponds full. But it is labeled in the singular form Saratoga Spring on the USGS topographical map. Combining the three ponds (shown to be four ponds on the topographical map) equals about 6.6 acres of water in this area. Saratoga Spring is considered to be the third-largest marsh area in Death Valley, behind only Saline Valley marsh and Cottonball Marsh. Saratoga Spring is well known as a great location to view both migrant and resident birds, although only from a great distance away. This is because it is mostly too difficult to get close to the larger ponds. And even when you can, you have to be careful about not trampling the area or frightening the birds. Thus, many visitors choose to bring binoculars or cameras with powerful zooms. A little-known fact is that Death Valley has a surprising number of ducks, geese, and swans which either pass through or make stops within park boundaries. These include 32 distinct types such as Canadian Geese, Snow Geese, Wood Ducks, Eurasian Widgeons, Tundra Swans (spotted during the official 2015 bird count), and Trumpeter Swans, among others. Make sure to download a copy of the official Death Valley Bird Checklist and familiarize yourself with what the various types look like before visiting Saratoga Spring, as it will make your time there more rewarding. As far as what types of birds you can specifically look for at Saratoga Spring, the USGS states that "five notable bird species are known to occur at Saratoga Springs: the yellow warbler, the Cooper's hawk, the western snowy plover, the long-billed curlew, and the long-eared owl. All of these species have been placed on state or federal sensitive species lists because of habitat loss or population declines across their geographic ranges." In addition, "five rare invertebrate species also occur at Saratoga Springs and include the Amargosa tryonia snail, the Amargosa spring snail, the Saratoga Springs belostoma bug, the Amargosa naucorid bug, and the Death Valley June beetle." Finally, "Saratoga Springs is also unique in that it is one of the few locations in the Park where red-spotted toads and Pacific tree frogs occur in the same area." The sample picture down below shows a group of Cinnamon Teal ducks which I spotted and photographed while at Saratoga Spring. Along with spotting bird life, two of my other objectives for this visit to Saratoga Spring were to check out the wildflowers during the 2016 Superbloom and to fully walk around and explore the area in order to get good views of the ponds. The wildflowers proved to be incredible, just as expected. The land areas to the east and northeast of the main pond were literally blanketed by wildflowers. Unlike the Ibex Dunes, which had only three main types of wildflowers blooming, Saratoga Spring had many more varieties. More specific details on the various types of flowers are included within the full set of pictures and captions linked to at the bottom. Exploring the spring area itself also proved to be quite interesting. There is a very small pond which you can visit which isn't far from the parking area. A path has been cut through the high reeds so that visitors can see the pupfish and frogs swimming in the pond. Seeing the larger ponds requires working your way carefully around the area in a circle. You have to watch out for places where you can sink down into mud and tread carefully through fragile parts of the embankments. In my opinion, the most spectacular spot at Saratoga Spring is located on the western side where you can see reflections of the Ibex Hills on the clear water of the large ponds. There are also some mining ruins to check out and other longer hikes which can be carried out in this area. My visit took place on February 26, 2016.
Many more photographs taken during our visit are available for viewing for this destination. To see all of them, choose one of the two options presented below. The two options are Slideshow viewing and Trip Report viewing. The Slideshow option allows for viewing larger images with an autoplay option and a full screen option (available on most browsers). This option works very well for large computer screens and tablets. The Trip Report option allows for viewing smaller pictures in a standard scroll-down format and enlarging of any panoramic photos taken during our visit. Click on the option of your choice to view all of our photos from this destination. The Slideshow format opens in a new browser window and the Trip Report format uses the same browser window for viewing.
TRIP REPORT FORMAT