Muddy River

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This article is about Nevada's Muddy River. For Muddy River in Boston, Massachusetts, see Muddy River, Massachusetts. For other places named Muddy River, see Muddy River (disambiguation).
Muddy River in late Fall, looking south

The Muddy River, formerly known as the Moapa River, is a short river located in the southern part of the state in Clark County, Nevada, United States. It is in the Mojave Desert, approximately 60 miles (97 km) north of Las Vegas.


The Muddy River is approximately 32 miles (51 km) long. It begins as a series of thermal springs in the Moapa Valley before continuing on its course to Lake Mead, where it drains into the northern arm of the lake near Overton, Nevada. Before the Hoover Dam's construction, the Muddy River flowed into the Virgin River.[1]

Near the town of Glendale the Muddy River collects the flow from the Meadow Valley Wash, forming the principal drainage system for southeastern Nevada.

Moapa National Wildlife Refuge[edit]

The Moapa Valley area is home to a wide variety of rare and endangered species, including fish, invertebrates, birds, and plants. Two endangered fish inhabit the area: the Moapa dace (Moapa coriacea) and the Virgin River chub (Gila seminuda). These species can be found throughout the various springs, called the Muddy Springs, that feed the Muddy River.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has created the Moapa National Wildlife Refuge at the Warm Springs Natural Area, as part of the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex. In another effort to help protect and preserve the fragile habitats in the Muddy Springs area, the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) and various environmental associations have organized an effort to conserve these species.[2]


The area was part of the Native American Paiute peoples homeland for centuries, with the Mojave to the south. "Moapa" is a Southern Paiute language word meaning "muddy"; although "Moapa River" was formerly the official name, local usage tended to translate the name, and it was made official in 1960.[3]

The Old Spanish Trail crossed from the Virgin River to the Muddy River and followed it westward before crossing the desert to Las Vegas Springs.

Mormon settlers established several settlements in the Muddy River area in 1864, including the town of St Thomas, which was submerged under Lake Mead until recently. Some of the towns ruins can be still seen during low water levels. Some Paiutes fought to protect and reclaim their homeland. For a variety of reasons, including the harsh climate, unpredictable periods of drought, and a tax dispute with the State of Nevada, the Mormons abandoned the area in 1871.[4] Many of the LDS people have since returned to the area and it currently has a substantial Mormon population.

See also[edit]