Devils Hole Overview
Devils Hole is a limestone cavern that leads down to a pool of deep, warm water in southern Nevada that is home to the Devils Hole Pupfish. The reason why you may not have heard of this little fish is that it is only found in this geothermic pool in the middle of a desert.
Although it is located in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, which is in Nevada, Devils Hole is considered to be a part of Death Valley National Park, albeit a detached portion of it.
The water is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit all year round and has depths reaching up to 1,247 feet with the bottom remaining unmapped by divers and geologists.
While it may have a narrow opening, it is broken up into a series of chambers. The main chamber is around 160 feet deep and resides just under the surface pool which eventually leads to the funnel. Past the funnel is a much larger chamber called Acree’s Chasm which stretches up to 300 feet across and drops 260 feet below the surface. Apart from the two large chambers, there are a series of tubes and holes like Brown’s Room and the Infinity Room discovered by diver Jim Houtz and his diving partner.
Even though the cave is located in the United States, the water is affected by seismic activity from the other side of the globe. Whenever an earthquake happens in Mexico, Indonesia, Chile, or Japan, water in Devils Hole sloshes around in what can only be described as a miniature tsunami. Water has been measured to splash up to 6′ up the walls which is crazy when you consider what is causing that and how far away it is.
Devils Hole History
It is speculated to have formed around 60,000 to 80,000 years ago with the pools being isolated around 10,000 to 20,000 years ago when the water levels in Ash Meadows started to recede and dry out. In more recent times, compared to 10s of thousands of years, Devils Hole had been documented in the mid-1800s by pioneers and gold prospectors. In 1849, a Death Valley Forty-Niner Louis Nusbaumer described the pools as
“… a hole in the rocks which contains magnificent warm water in which Hadapp and I enjoyed an extremely refreshing bath,” and that, “the saline cavity itself presents a magical appearance.”
In 1891, the first officially collected data came from the Death Valley Expedition of the U.S biological survey. Now, it is absolutely possible that the area was discovered or even used by indigenous people, like the Timbisha, centuries before anyone else, unfortunately, any human activity before the 1800s isn’t really recorded or known so we have to go off of what we can find.
In 1930, the Devils Hole pupfish was classified by Joseph Wales. This classification was further proven when Robert Rush Miller confirmed that the Devil Hole pupfish had been isolated long enough from another pupfish found just up the road, so to speak. Millers confirming that it was a unique species helped it make the endangered species list.
Up until 1965, the area was accessible for most people but that changed when two teenagers went SCUBA diving and never surfaced. It was during this recovery mission that it was discovered that portions of Devils Hole go as deep as 1200 feet by Jim Houtz and his dive partner. The bodies of the teens were never found. Because of this and the Devils Hole pupfish being an endangered species, Devils Hole has restricted access and requires special permissions and permits to access.
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, Nye County, Nevada
This area is highly restricted and requires special permissions to go down. You can walk near it on marked trails leading up to it but that’s as far as most people will ever see.
Do not enter or climb over railings to get into Devils Hole. It’s considered trespassing and can get you fined or arrested. Aside from above-ground penalties, underwater adventures rarely go well for untrained people and have killed SCUBA divers in the past.
- Wikipedia – Devils Hole
- NPS.gov – Devils Hole
- Travel Nevada – World’s Rarest Fish
- Mojave Project – Devils Hole