Saturday, April 21, 2018

Las Vegas: A Walk on the Wild Side Part 3

Elephant Rock
Fifty-five miles northeast of Las Vegas is one of Nevada's most impressive state parks, Valley of Fire. The parks 42,000 acres were formed by the action of wind and shifting sand millions of years ago. Time and erosion carved surreal shapes and formations out of the brilliantly colored sandstone and limestone, creating the amazing environment that we enjoy today.
Valley of Fire is very accessible. 18 miles of paved road transect it and give you a view of the amazing rock formations. There are a few miles of dirt road near the campgrounds that will also accommodate vehicles unless you are driving a car very low clearance.
The Beehives
For those wanting to get a closer look there are 4 1/2 miles of developed trails. We began our tour at the west entrance where a $10 entrance fee gave us all day access. We drove Valley of Fire road to the first pull-out at the Beehives. These unusual sandstone formations have been eroded into the domed shape of a beehave. Many of them have tunnels big enough to crawl through and little window holes to peer inside. There were a lot of families with school age children enjoying the rocky playground of rocks.

Petrified wood
A little further along Valley of Fire  Road there are some petrified logs to walk around before arriving at the East (Lake Mead) Entrance where you can park and climb the hill to get a closer look at Elephant Rock.

Stone cabins built by the CCC to shelter hikers.
We turned around and stopped at Seven Sisters picnic area for lunch before returning to Visitor Center Road where the most spectacular formations in the park are located. Across the road from Seven Sisters are 3 historic stone cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid 1930's as shelter for hikers traveling the Arrowhead Trail. The cabins are in a beautiful setting and remain in very good condition.

We stopped at Mouse's Tank to hike the petroglyph canyon. Valley of Fire is dog friendly so Rascal was able to walk with us. He seemed to enjoy the soft sand after struggling with volcanic rubble and cactus thorns all winter. The canyon trail is only 1 1/2 miles round trip. It has dozens of petroglyphs on the steep walls of the canyon. 

The sun over the steep wall of Petroglyph Canyon
We had a good time spotting them and trying to figure out what they meant to the person that chipped them into the desert varnish.
Are they art or graffiti?
Do they have spiritual significance or are they the bored winter doodles of someone that would rather be hunting?
Do they tell a story?
Document history?
Were they meant to leave a message?
In the end it doesn't matter. We love them for their antiquity, a visual link through time.

Fire Canyon, Fire Wave and the White Domes are further along Visitor Center Rd. The colors, the soft rock edges carved by wind and sand, the play of light and shadow all seem familiar somehow. Familiar and other worldly at the same time. 

Doesn't this rock formation look like the Starship Enterprise?
Many movies have been shot on location in the Valley of Fire. Transformers, Con Air, the Martian scenes of Total Recall, Captain Kirk's death scene from Star Trek Generations were all filmed in the park as late afternoon sun made the rocks glow red.

We enjoyed our visit, the drive and the short hikes but were disappointed not to have spotted any wildlife. Then right at the side of the road were a herd of Bighorn Sheep feeding on the burrobush and brittlebrush.

The sheep were as curious about us as we were about them.
We plan to return and plan to spend a few days in the RV campground so that we can enjoy more of the park.

Valley of Fire State Park
29450 Valley of Fire Rd
Overton, Nevada

1 comment:

  1. What a beautiful area, Bonnie! That one rock really does look like e Starship Enterprise. :)