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Valley Of Fire State Park Near Las Vegas
About an hour away...
Only about an hour Northeast of the City of Las Vegas, you will find some dazzling colors and displays of nature in the Valley Of Fire State Park. The oldest state park in the state of Nevada, you will be fascinated by how life must have been thousands of years ago.
You will see amazing displays of red sandstone formations, and can look at them and try to decide what you see (similar to looking at cloud formations and trying to "see" shapes in them).
The desert here is very fragile, so you are asked to keep your cars only on the paved, approved roads... (some of the roads to campgrounds are not paved and they are well marked with signs).
Through years of wind and water erosion have emerged HUGE red sandstone formations that fascinate and delight both young and old. This, along with an ancient form of communication called "petroglyphs" that are fascinating to see and try to decipher.
On your way into the park, you will pass through an Indian reservation, which is interesting as well. There is one gas station/ convenience store on the way to the park, on the Indian reservation. Once you pass that, you will not get another chance to pick up anything you may need, so it's wise to stop there if you need water or any other commodities. Restroom facilities are available in the park, though.
Once you arrive at the park, you won't have to drive too far to see your first bright red sandstone formations known as the "Beehives." These are mainly two formations that do somewhat resemble beehives, and they are very pretty!
In that same area, you can walk and see how there are small caves that are formed into the sides of these sandstone formations. I wondered if some of the desert animals use these for shade during the daytime, only I learned that most of the animals of the desert are nocturnal, meaning they come out mostly at night so they wouldn't have a need for shade.
We did happen upon a desert lizard, which was fascinating to watch. They move so FAST and nearly blend in with their surroundings. You have to be aware of where you're stepping and watch for these interesting little creatures... once you find one, they are fun to watch.
Now snakes can be a danger, but you simply need to be aware of your surroundings, and LISTEN for any "rattling" sounds. Rattlesnakes are nocturnal, so the chances of you seeing one in the daytime is somewhat rare, but you should be aware and watchful just in case.
If you drive down the road a bit, and make a left turn where the signs show that there is an "arch rock" you will find a really interesting shaped arch formation resembling a "hole" in the sandstone. Very pretty, especially if the sky happens to be a dark blue color as it was when we visited the park. You are asked not to climb up the rock, as it is fragile and you could be injured.
When you are "out in the middle of nowhere" in a desert situation, you need to take precautions to keep yourself safe and out of trouble. Be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat is a good idea, wear sunglasses, and bring along plenty of water. There is a drinking fountain at the visitor's center, but they ask you not to fill water containers there, so you have to be prepared.
Wear proper clothing, including closed toed shoes. Some of the areas you will walk in will be very sandy, and you wouldn't want to possibly step on something and be injured or get bitten by something. It's just common sense really, if you were to be injured, it may take a while for anyone to be able to get to where you are. So, it is wise to be safe about it.
A few miles along the scenic drive, you will come to a visitor's center. Restrooms are available here, as well as drinking fountains. There are displays at the Visitor's center of the flora and fauna of the desert which are fascinating to look at and read about. Later on our trip, we saw some of the things that had been displayed at the visitor's center, and recognized them. It makes your trip more interesting if you know what to look for and the names of the things you see. I saw some very neat looking plants that I had found out were called "Desert holly." Sometimes in the past people would pick them to use them for Christmas and holiday decorations, but you cannot do that any more, and things like that are good to know so you don't get yourself into trouble.
Right out in back of the visitors center, you will find a sandy, somewhat rocky area that is covered with "ground squirrels." They resemble little chipmunks, they're very small, only about 6 inches long, and have a bushy tail and stripes down their sides. They are mostly gray and white in color. It's fun to watch them, but do not try to feed them or touch them, as we found out at the visitors center, they can carry diseases including bubonic plague.
Just a short drive from the Visitor's center is an area called "Mouse's Tank." You can park there, and walk on a VERY sandy path, it is about 1/2 mile there and back, and it is well worth taking the walk. Along the way, you will see "petroglyph's" on the sides of the sandstone formations. These were an ancient way of communicating. Many of the "carvings" into the stone there depict images of people and animals. Many times, the animal drawings were for hunting purposes. Usually they are on a sandstone formation that has a black coating, and I'm sure these were chosen to draw these petroglyph's so they would be easier to see.
My husband made an interesting observation when we were looking at the petroglyph's of people and small animals, he said they almost look like those little "signs" you see on the back windows of SUV's today! I laughed and said he might be onto something! I guess the purpose of those is to let others know who is in the family that owns that particular vehicle. Maybe we haven't advanced so far after all, since that is kind of a "primitive" way to communicate!
Once you arrive at Mouse's Tank, you can see a "hole" between rocks and some water that has collected in a natural basin below them. It is said that this was a "hiding place" back in the late 1800's, and the area was named for a renegade Indian named "Mouse" that hid there. It was a perfect place for hiding, plenty of shade, surrounded by rock (well hidden)... and there was access to natural rain water. What we wondered was how in the WORLD this renegade FOUND that place to begin with! Back in 1890 there were no cars, and certainly no "roads"... probably just the path that we took to walk there. The "renegade" most likely was on horseback and found it. The path we walked on was VERY sandy, you have to check your shoes once you get back to "pavement"... you will probably have red sand in your shoes.
That walk is only about 1/2 mile round trip, but seems a bit farther due to walking in the sand. I think the sand there is even softer than "beach sand." And it is a very pretty red color!
There are a lot of features to this park, and you may want to allow more than one day if you'd like to see them all. There is one area that we passed by that has "petrified logs," logs that washed into the area about 225 million years ago, and they are exposed in two locations.
Then there is also an area called "Seven sisters" that we didn't see on this trip, but it has interesting rock formations, and picnic areas right along the rock formations.
Another place we did visit was called "Rainbow Vista"... and it is such a beautiful uplifting sight, well worth checking out! The colors of the stone vary from white, to pink, to bright red, to shades of green... hence the name "Rainbow Vista." Some very nice photo opportunities abound here, and a little farther down the road you will come to the "White Domes." This is an area of sandstone formations of varying colors, and some beautiful white stone as well. You can take a one mile hike on a path filled with brilliant WHITE sand. We decided to save that hike for another day.
It would be a pretty long day spent at the park if you wanted to take all of it in, but that could be done. You would simply need to arrive early, be sure to bring plenty of water and have good walking shoes, and bring a picnic lunch if you plan to stay for most of the day.
It will be an experience out in the "Wild West" that you won't soon forget. This area is a brilliant display of the forces of nature at work over millions of years. Years of erosion of the limestone, shale, and sandstone provide for some spectacular scenery and a glimpse of what the "Wild West" looked like years ago. The fertile Moapa valley provides some spectacular scenery as well. This area was used by the "Basket Maker people" and later Anasazi pueblo farmers from the nearby Moapa valley. They are said to have occupied this valley from 300 B.C. until approximately 1150 A.D.
The length of their stay would have been limited by the scarcity of water, however it was thought that they did have some water there back then. Their primitive art in the form of petroglyph's remains to this day.
The desert plants found here include creosote bush, brittlebush and burro bush, was well as several cactus species. In the Spring, you can see desert marigolds as well as indigo bushes.
Animal life in the desert includes many species of lizards and snakes, small mammals like kit foxes, coyotes, skunks, desert (antelope) ground squirrels, jackrabbits, as well as big horn sheep. Some examples of the wildlife can be seen at the visitor center, since your chances of seeing them in the daylight, out in the open, are pretty slim.
Enjoy your day at the Valley Of Fire State Park, and bring home with you some fantastic photographic memories of the day... but please leave "artifacts" at the park, to be enjoyed by future generations.