Fossil Hunting In Las Vegas
Frenchman Mountain, A Fossil Hotbed.
Who Knew Fossils Could Be Found in Vegas?
Fossil hunting in Las Vegas Valley keeps the calories down and is quite popular with the locals but not so much with the tourist. The locals keep the fossils a secret. Finding fossils in the Las Vegas area is actually pretty easy. During the Paleozoic Era Las Vegas was a shallow ocean. Today remnants of that ocean has been left in fossil records scattered all over the valley. For Las Vegas locals this means great hikes around the valley and for the tourists it means a possible break from the casinos.
Las Vegas Valley is surrounded by mountain ranges. On the west side lie the Spring Mountains to the north lie the Sheep Head Range and to the east lie Sunrise and Frenchman Mountain. Most of the areas are under the management of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Fossil hunters can remove fossils under BLM control but there are guidelines that should be read before setting out. The BLM paleontolgical laws are on this website:http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/more/CRM/paleontology/paleontological_laws.html.
The Lake Mead National Recreation Area, The Valley of Fire, and Red Rock canyon areas are off limits as far as removal of any fossils. In addition, a newly created area, Tule Springs can also be added to this list. This area is north of Decatur near the new county shooting range. It is currently a designated historic area.
Near Lake Mead lies the Lava Butte area which comes under the BLM. In this area the washes and ravines have fossils that have eroded from the surrounding limestone deposits. Shell fossils from the Paleozoic Era are frequently found on the wash and canyon floors.They wash down into the washes from limestone deposits in the mountains. There are also plenty of hiking trails in the area. People love to climb the rocks in this area too.
Near Red Rock and closer to Blue Diamond the mountains hold a treasure trove of different fossils form the Paleozoic era. Corals, some bi-valve shellss lace the mountains in this area. Most of these areas are near the highway and you can park on the side of the road to hike up into the hills. This area does not have a lot of hiking trails. The mountains in the area are also composed of limestone.
The Area to the east under Frenchman Mountain near Lakemead and Hollywood lies the old dump. This area is loaded with pioche shale. The shale is soft, which means you can split the shale with your hands. The shale lines the base of Frenchman mountain and is located above the last rows of houses off of Lake Mead going towards the lake. The dark brown shale once was at the bottom of the ocean and was once used by the trilobyte, a horseshoe crab looking animal, to molt their shells in the area. This area is a great place to take a child to look for their first fossils.The mountain has well worn trails and makes for an easy hike from the road.
Corals and shells can also be found in limestone deposits in the North Las Vegas area. The area known as the Las Vegas Wash contains fossils but this area is now protected. The area is also known as Tule Springs. Tule Springs supporters are seeking Federal government protection and they want the government to create a federal national monument to protect the numerous Ice Age bones found in the area. The areas to the northwest of Interstate 95 are rich in Paleozoic fossils and fall under BLM jurisdiction.The lack of trails in the area make for a rough hike.
Fossil hunting exercises your body and burns calories and is a great way to stay in shape with others or your family. Hike all year long but safety should be paramount. Never hike alone and wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. Las Vegas ravines and valleys are prone to flash flooding during the summer monsoon season or the wintertime so it is important to pay attention to the weather and where you are hiking. Always let someone know where you are going. Remember you are walking in desert so water should also be a concern. During the summer months rattle snakes roam the valley. They like to come out of hiding in the early morning and at dusk. Stay on trails and be aware of where you are walking.