The Lytle Ranch Preserve is a remarkable desert laboratory located at the convergence of the Great Basin, Colorado Plateau, and Mojave Desert bio-geographical regions. This unique convergence of life zones endows the Preserve with an unusually rich combination of living communities. The Preserve is dedicated to providing students, scientists, and visitors with an opportunity to experience the flora, fauna, and ecological complexities of this living system. Brigham Young University is committed to the care and preservation of this unique natural resource so that future generations can enjoy and learn firsthand about the biological and historical features of the Lytle Ranch Preserve.
Diversity of Life
Liberally clothing the uplands around the Preserve is a warm-desert shrub mixture, mainly Joshua tree, datil yucca, creosote bush, black bush, and cholla cactus. Lowlands along the creek support velvet ash, fremont cottonwood, black willow, and desert willow. Catclaw acacia grows on the stream terraces and up the drainages into the dry lands. Fruit of the California mistletoe, a parasite of the catclaw, is eaten by several birds, especially the phainopepla, which transfers the sticky seeds from one plant to another. Desert birds usually associated with arid regions south of Utah which nest on the preserve are the white-winged dove, Costa's hummingbird, brown crested flycatcher, Bell's vireo, verdin, black-tailed gnatcatcher, phainopepla, Lucy's warbler, summer tanager, and hooded oriole. Roadrunners nest and thrive on the property by eating reptiles of all kinds including poisonous ones. Desert tortoises on the property are native and survive the summer heat and winter cold in protective dens. Coyotes stalk cottontail, California jackrabbit; and even mule deer. The Virgin River spinedace, a small, rare desert minnow, is a year-round resident in the stream, and is under review for federal protection. The Gila monster, a beautiful poisonous lizard with bead-like scales, is a rarely seen resident of the preserve.
Old U.S. Highway 91 connects St. George with Santa Clara and continues to Littlefield, Arizona. West of the summit, the old highway passes a rock outcropping called Castle Cliff which is topped by a wooden flagpole. To the right (coming from St. George) a gravel road intersects Highway 91 immediately beyond Castle Cliff; the Lytle Preserve is eleven miles west along this gravel road. Yellow and black signs along the way provide directions to the preserve.