February 1, 2015 Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

Disregard the previous email posting, this replaces that post of the same name.

We were eager to explore the area outside of Las Vegas and our first adventure was to make the short drive to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This 200,00016424649285_c868d338c6_o16398686696_2e17a75d02_o

acre area in the southern Mojave Desert gets its name from the fantastic red sand formations that can be found in the area. More than 500 million years ago this area was at the bottom of the ocean. For more than 250 million years limestone sediment accumulated and southern Nevada began to emerge from the sea. The great sandstone cliffs at Red Rock, thousands of feet high, are made of Aztec sandstone. The sandstone rocks were slowly uplifted thousands of feet to their current elevation where they have been exposed to weathering and erosion. The red color comes from deposits of iron oxide and calcium carbonate. Exposure to weather caused some of the iron minerals to “rust”, resulting in the beautiful red, orange and brown rocks.

15802163104_5f8ebfa5da_o16424662065_9e2209c210_oThere is a small Visitors Center there and a thirteen mile scenic loop drive with overlooks and places to hike and rock climb.

Paleontologists have confirmed that fossilized tracks made 180 to 190 million years ago in Red Rock Canyon are the first documented dinosaur tracks in Nevada.

There are many mammals which can be found in the area, including the kangaroo rat, blacktail jackrabbit and desert cottontail. We saw numerous road signs warning us to be on the lookout for wild burros and wild horses. These horses and burros originated from animals abandoned by settlers, ranchers, prospectors and Native Indian tribes.

The next day we decided to drive a further distance from our RV resort to Valley of Fire State Park, the oldest state park in Nevada. While we thought Red Rock Canyon was

​beautiful, it didn’t begin to compare with the magnificent beauty of Valley of Fire. The red sandstone formations were formed from great shifting sand dunes during the ago of the dinosaurs. The uplifting of the region through faulting followed by extensive erosion created the present landscape. Native Americans such as the Basket People and later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers lived in this region.

IMG_3467IMG_3471While in the park we stopped by the Visitors Center and watched an excellent film on the park. This state park also had a scenic drive with many stops along the way to see gorgeous scenery. Our first stop was Arch Rock followed by Atlatl Rock where we ​climbed stairs which took us to IMG_3462IMG_3464view some petroglyphs carved in the desert varnish. Here we saw depictions of an “atlatl” which is a notched stick used to throw primitive spears. We stopped several times to hike back into the canyon to view more petroglyphs and magnificent views. The day went by quickly and before long the sun was starting to set in the canyon.

IMG_3476IMG_3474IMG_3472IMG_3456We were so glad we visited these two beautiful areas and had a chance to see the area outside of all the lights and casinos in Las Vegas!

Native people lived in this area for thousands of years and evidence of their existence can be found in petroglyphs and pictographs throughout the park. A petroglyph is made by scratching into a rock, revealing the lighter colored rock underneath. The designs are often carved or scratched into the dark coating of “desert varnish” on the surface of the rocks. A pictograph is made by painting designs onto the surface of rocks.


Red Rock Canyon’s petroglyphs (scratched)


Red Rock Canyon’s pictographs (painted)


Valley of Fire ‘s petroglyphs (scratched) “atlatl” which is a notched stick is at the top


Valley of Fire ‘s petroglyphs (scratched)


Closer view Valley of Fire ‘s petroglyphs (scratched)


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