You’ll find the beautiful, magnificent, and remote Tonkin Spring just northwest of the Robert Mountains in Eureka County, Nevada, right at the mouth of the famed Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.
Tonkin Spring is maintained by the Bureau of Land Management and under their care, this wilderness region has been left untouched and untainted by man-made facilities and amenities. What you get is a pure oasis of nature, a place of isolation where you can go back to the days of simplicity and primitiveness.
This Nevada spring is located at an elevation of 2,110 meters (6,565 feet) and encompasses an area of about 3,000 acres. This spring is a result of underground water that naturally flows to the surface of the earth enriching it with nutrients and life.
Tonkin Spring was initially noted for its mineral-rich waters that even contained traces of gold which attracted the attention of mining operations. There have been studies and researches that have indicated overall gold recoveries exceeding 80% of Tonkin Spring's sulfide ore.
The topography surrounding Tonkin Spring is distinguished by easterly trending mountain ranges with elevation ranging from 1,700 meters up to 3,100 meters, and exquisite narrow valleys. During winters and springs, rain is heavy. The foliage of the Tonkin Spring area mostly consists of sagebrush, pinyon, mahogany, and juniper canopies as well as sparse grassy areas.
Tonkin Spring is located about 25 miles west of Eureka, NV. The turn-off to the spring is on U.S. Highway 50 and at the 3-Bars road. All the signage is there, and it won’t be difficult to find. You’ll have to drive 35 miles north from the 3-Bars turnoff on a well-maintained gravel road that will lead you right up to the Tonkin Spring Recreation Area.
If you locate the Tonkin Spring Mine sign, the recreation area is just north of the road from it. This is a remote wilderness region so make sure you come prepared and well-supplied.
Tonkin Spring Recreation Area is undeveloped. However, the Bureau of Land Management does allow for primitive camping at the site. You can choose a spot of your liking, and most campers prefer ones close to the spring. Make sure to clean up after yourself, and make an effort to search already disturbed campsites for your usage.
Pets are allowed in the campground as long as they are well-behaved and won’t disturb the surroundings. The stay limit is for up to 14 days and no more. Bring your own water and whatever else you may need as they are no close-by stores or towns. Cutting live vegetation for a campfire is strictly prohibited.
Not everyone is fond of primitive camping, which is why they’d be glad to know that another BLM campground is just an hour’s drive from Tonkin Spring. Hickison Petroglyph Campground boasts 16 RV campsites equipped with barbeques, trash facilities, and pit toilets.
Additionally, the campground also offers a self-guided hike that gives you an up-close and personal view of hundreds of ancient petroglyphs. Hickison Summit is also approachable from the campground and the 360-degree view from above is simply breathtaking.
Tonkin Springs provides a complete package to those who visit the area for nearby summits. You can camp at the Tonkin Springs, relax while fishing, watching the wildlife or just hiking right after you make your summits at the nearby Bald Mountain and Fagin Mountain.
Fagin Mountain is a 9,147 ft summit and one of the most challenging hikes and climbs here. In contrast, Bald Mountain with its 11,562 ft elevations is quite straightforward and enjoyable and perfect for novice climbers.
Tonkin Spring's reservoir is introduced to 1,000 hatchery trout annually to maintain a healthy fish population in the reservoir waters. The fishery is also a result of the rich natural reproduction from the inflow creek. Spinning, fly fishing, and baitcasting are all encouraged here.
Anglers of all ages and skill levels will enjoy tossing a line in the water, not for monster catches but rather for decent-sized panfish which make for great tasting meals.
Tonkin Springs permits hiking and horseback riding within its boundaries. There aren’t any well-developed trails and you can hike or ride wherever you want, as long as you are able to brave the overgrowths.
The closest and most developed trails from Tonkin Spring is the Hickison Petroglyph Interpretive trail that takes hikers to an endless number of petroglyphs that are believed to be evidence of prehistoric hunting and dwelling sites dating as far back as 10,000 B.C.
Wild horses roam free around Tonkin Spring. They enjoy the forage of pinyon and juniper and love to graze here. Other wildlife seen in the area includes mule deer, mountain lion, badger, long-tailed weasel, bobcat, gray and kit foxes, and coyotes amongst many other species of small mammals and reptiles. Keep an eye out for sage grouse, pygmy rabbits, and bats.
The open water of Tonkin Springs lures numerous native and migratory birds to the surrounding land. Avian species found in the area include, but are not limited to burrowing owl, American Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Merlin, Osprey, pinyon jay, great horned owl, turkey vulture, barn owl, black rosy finch, Cooper’s hawk, Olive-sided flycatcher, and sharp-shinned hawk.
It’s one thing to have a picnic outing at a well-developed picnic area with pavilions, picnic tables, and all the amenities within arm’s reach, but it an entirely different kind of picnic experience when you are in a place far away from civilization and the only amenities you have is what you brought with you.