Destination of the Week

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Registered: 03-22-2003
Destination of the Week
Mon, 09-15-2003 - 11:10pm

Valley of Fire State Park

Valley of Fire State Park is located only six miles from Lake Mead and 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas via Interstate 15 and on exit 75. Valley of Fire is Nevada's oldest and largest state park, dedicated 1935. The valley derives its name from the red sandstone formations and the stark beauty of the Mojave Desert. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park by areas of petrified wood and 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyph. Popular activities include camping, hiking, picnicking and photography. The park offers a full-scale visitor center with extensive interpretive displays. Several group use areas are also available. The park is open all year.

The Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape. Other important rock formations include limestones, shales, and conglomerates. Prehistoric users of the Valley of Fire included the Basket Maker people and later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers from the nearby fertile Moapa Valley. The span of approximate occupation has been dated from 300 B.C. to 1150 A.D. Their visits probably involved hunting, food gathering, and religious ceremonies, although scarcity of water would have limited the length of their stay. Fine examples of rock art left by these ancient peoples can be found at several sites within the park.

Winters are mild with temperatures ranging from freezing to 75 degrees. Daily summer highs usually exceed 100 degrees, and may reach 120 degrees. Summer temperatures can vary widely from day to night. Average annual rainfall is four inches, coming in the form of light winter showers and summer thunderstorms. Spring and fall are the preferred seasons for visiting the Valley of Fire. Snow rarely falls at Valley of Fire as shown in this picture.

The area plant community is dominated by widely spaced creosote bush, burro bush, and brittle bush. Several cactus species, including beaver tail and cholla, are also common. The springtime bloom of such plants as the desert marigold, indigo bush, and desert mallow are often spectacular along park roads. Resident birds include the raven, house finch, sage sparrow, and roadrunner. Many migrant birds also pass through the park. Most desert animals are nocturnal and not frequently seen by the passing motorist. Many species of lizards and snakes are common in the park, as well as the coyote, kit fox, spotted skunk, black tailed jack rabbit, and antelope ground squirrel. The desert tortoise is a rare species and is protected by state law. If you are lucky enough to come across one please leave this likable and harmless creature to live its life in peace in its own environment.

An entrance fee is charged to enter the park, with additional fee for camping. Current fees are posted at the park entrance.

The visitor center provides exhibits on the geology, ecology, prehistory, and history of the park and the nearby region. It is strongly recommended that each visitor make this an early stop after entering the park. Postcards, books, and film are on sale for your convenience. Open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

All campsites are first come, first serve. Two campgrounds with 51 units are available. Campsites are equipped with shaded tables, grills, water, and restrooms. An additional fee is charged for the use of the area and is payable at the campground. A dump station and showers are available.

Picnicking: Shaded areas with restrooms are located at Atlatl Rock, Seven Sisters, the Cabins, near Mouse's Tank trail head and White Domes.

Group Area: There are three group areas, each accommodating up to 45 persons. They are available for overnight camping and picnicking by reservation only. Advance reservations are required. For information call Valley of Fire State Park (702) 397-2088.

Hiking: Many intriguing hikes are available to visitors. Inquire at the visitor center for suggestions on day hikes of varying length and terrain.

Sites of interest:

Atlatl Rock: Outstanding examples of ancient Indian rock art or petroglyphs, including a depiction of the atlatl (at'-lat-l), a notched stick used to throw primitive spears. The atlatl was a predecessor to the bow and arrow. The adjacent Atlatl Rock Campground provides a modern restroom and shower building.

Arch Rock: Near Atlatl Rock Campground is the more primitive Arch Rock Campground with its more secluded campsites. A two-mile scenic loop road provides views of some of the Valley's most interesting rock formations, such as Arch Rock and Piano Rock.

Beehives: Unusual sandstone formations weathered by the eroding forces of wind and water. Nearby are three group camping areas, available by reservation only.

Cabins: Now a picnic area, these historic stone cabins were built with native sandstone by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the 1930's as a shelter for passing travelers.

Clark Memorial: Historic monument honors a pioneer traveler.

Elephant Rock is accessible via a short trail.

Fire Canyon/Silica Dome: From this vantage point there is an excellent view of the deep red sandstone of Fire Canyon, and the unique geological features of Silica Dome.

Mouse's Tank: Named for a renegade Indian who used the area as a hideout in the 1890's. Mouse's Tank is a natural basin in the rock where water collects after rainfalls, sometimes remaining for months. A half-mile round trip trail leads to Mouse's Tank from the trail head parking area, passing numerous examples of prehistoric Indian petroglyphs.

Petrified Logs: Logs and stumps washed into the area from an ancient forest about 225 million years ago are exposed in two locations.

Rainbow Vista: A favorite photo point with a panoramic view of multicolored sandstone.

Seven Sisters: Fascinating red rock formations are easily accessible from the road. Picnic areas provide a relaxing stop during your Valley tour.

White Domes: Sandstone formations with brilliant contrasting colors; picnic area and trail head. White Domes is an eleven-mile (17.7 km) round trip drive from the Visitor Center. Duck Rock is a short hike away.

Nearby Points of Interest

Lake Mead National Recreation Area borders the park and encompasses Lakes Mead and Mojave. Many areas are available for camping, picnicking, swimming, fishing, and boating.

Lost City Museum in Overton offers fine displays of Indian artifacts and reconstruction's of the original pit dwellings and pueblo found in the Moapa Valley. Hoover Dam: The engineering wonder spans Black Canyon, drawing hydro-electric power from the force of the Colorado River. Tours are available daily.

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