The Valley of Fire is located just six short miles from Lake Mead, and a scant fifty miles from Las Vegas, Nevada via Interstate 15. The Valley of fire is the oldest and largest state park in Nevada and gets its name from the red coloration of the sandstone formations that lure in visitors to the stark beauty that is the Mojave.
Historical wonders abound here with ancient trees, rocks and petrified wood as well as Indian Petroglyphs that are determined to be over three thousand years old. Some activities that can be pursued here include camping, hiking picnics and of course photography.
The park also offers you a full service visitors center that is open year round to give you access to group use areas as well as extensive displays that will help you to understand and interpret what you see here.
Those who used the park have done so over myriad times throughout history. Among the prehistoric users of the Valley of Fire you will find evidence of the Basket Maker peoples, as well as the Anasazi from the nearby Moapa Valley, a fertile farmland that gave them life from about 300 BC forward to 1000 Ad.
Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada
The visits of these people to the valley were most likely partly to find food, to hunt and also to gather as well as to avail themselves of the use of the area for religious ceremonies. The scarcity of water in the area would have meant that whatever was drunk there must in fact be carried in and so their time there would have been limited.
Some truly awe inspiring examples of rock art were left by these and other ancient peoples who populated the park over time and will be seen in many different sites over the park.
Geology of the Park – The Valley of fire as previously mentioned owes its name to the vast array of red sandstone, which was formed from shifting of the sand dunes during the dinosaur ages, about 100 million years in the past. Some very complex uplifting of the region, as well as faulting which was followed by extensive and broad spectrum erosion created the landscape that we see today. The rock formations also include shale, limestone and other conglomerated minerals.
Ecology – The Valley of Fire is dominated by wide ranging creosote, burro and brittle bushes which create very nearly their own ecosystem there. Many species of cacti including cholla, beaver tail and barrel cacti are also present and in fact very common. The area is also blessed in springtime with a wide array of desert blooms that make for magnificent photography with indigo bushes, desert marigold and mallow particularly spectacular in their coloration of the desert landscape.
Some of the more plentiful wildlife will include ravens, desert finches, sage sparrows and the ever popular roadrunner as well as lizard, jack rabbit, spotted skunk, fox, coyote and antelope. If you are very fortunate you will see a desert tortoise which the area is famous for. These are protected and may not be removed or harmed as they are rare species, protected by law. If you see one of these most peaceful animals please leave it as you found it, to its own environment.
Some of the more interesting places to visit in the Valley of Fire include:
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.
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.
Unusual sandstone formations weathered by the eroding forces of wind and water. Nearby are three group camping areas, available by reservation only.
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.
Historic monument honors a pioneer traveler.
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.
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.
Logs and stumps washed into the area from an ancient forest about 225 million years ago are exposed in two locations.
A favorite photo point with a panoramic view of multicolored sandstone.
Fascinating red rock formations are easily accessible from the road. Picnic areas provide a relaxing stop during your Valley tour.
Sandstone formations with brilliant contrasting colors; picnic area and trail head. White Domes is an 11 mile round trip drive from the Visitor Center. Duck Rock is a short hike away.
The visitor center at Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada provides exhibits on the geology, ecology, prehistory and history of the park and the nearby region. Open daily, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Winters are mild with temperatures ranging from freezing to 75 degrees. Daily summer highs usually exceed 100 degrees and may reach 120 degrees Spring and fall are the preferred seasons for visiting the Valley of Fire for obvious reasons.