Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada

 

In retrospect we preferred this site to the one that we wanted inside the Valley of Fire State Park.  We arrived Thursday afternoon expecting to find a partial hookup site at the AtlAtl Rock campground, or in the alternative at the semi-primitive Arch Rock.  The draw to these campgrounds are that they are nestled in the amazing red sandstone rock formations that are actually fossilized sand dunes.  It is one of the draws to visit the park.We did not find any open site, which surprised even some regular visitors.  

Hard living in the desert

 While researching the park I made note that there is BLM land disbursed camping situated at both the east and west entrances.  Some of these campsites can get crowded.  We were lucky and found this isolated site about a half mile off the the entrance road on the wide open mountain desert.  We were prepared to dry camp, and the site provided ample sun for our solar panels.  We had the peace and quiet of this isolation, forgoing what can be the crowded busyness of an established campground.  Our site was only two miles from the west entrance and we enjoyed two full days in the park.

Our first day began with a trip to the visitor center.  Visits to these are always questionable given the corona virus, but this one seemed to do it right.  Masks required, temperature checks, and a reasonable turnover rate of visitors.  

We have come to appreciate these smaller visitor centers and museums, and this one did not disappoint.  It is a must to visit, and do so early as it gives an amazing geological overview of the valley and the rock formations.  The displays are in front of you while you are overlooking the valley and you can trace billions of years of volcanic, uplift, and erosion history.  Inside, the displays provide both a natural and cultural history of the area.  This is significant because there are amazing petroglyphs throughout the valley.

We next visited Elephant Rock, The Cabins, and the Seven Sisters.

These Stone Cabins were built by the members of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s.  I am drawn to them as my Dad was in the CCC’s as a young man, though his work was in the forests of Montana.




The Seven Sisters are a series of unique rock formations just off of the Valley of Fire Road.  They provide an up close look and what wind and water erosion does to fossilized sand dunes.

Elephant Rock is a curiosity in that we really worked our imagination to see the similarity.  Later I saw a photo from the opposite side of the edifice that made the point.  To help, the trunk is the downward spur to the left side of the formation.

 


There is wildlife throughout the park, though you don’t always see it.  We were fortunate to see Desert Big Horn sheep at two separate sides of the park.  We came across this ewe near the east side entrance.

This nice sized ram was on the west side just off of the roadway.




Day two began with driving the two mile Scenic Loop Road that winds it’s way around and through the two campgrounds.  A visit that reconfirmed our site selection.  The road takes you past both Arch Rock and Atlatl Rock. 


Arch Rock


Atlatl Rock
You have to work to see the petroglyphs high up on this wall.  The rock is noted for the ancient rock carvings, but specifically one representing  the atlatl and a hunter.  The atlatl was a notched stick that was used to throw primitive spears.  The stick provided the leverage to increase the power of the throw.  The atlatl preceded the bow and arrow.


See the atlatl at the top of the petroglyph.  It is combined with a hunter and an animal.  Does it mean that the hunting is good here?

What is it about these pictures from the ancients?  They clearly communicate information and ideas, but we can only guess what they mean.  They intrique and link me to the past of this country.  




We next drove the length of the White Domes Road anticipating our 1.25 mile White Dome Hike through a short slot canyon and around the contrasting colors of the sandstone formations.  If interested the hike takes you to locations which appeared in several films.  Expect crowds here.  It is a popular hike.


Mandatory “Slot Selfie”






The highlight for me was a mile and a half hike to the Fire Wave.  This is a relative easy hike to an iconic wave formation.  The dark red and white sandstones here are melded into a single formation.  The contrast is astounding.












A short walk past the main feature of the Fire Wave took me to a formation that had a small cave.  Not many had visited here.  I was drawn to the spot by the unique and beautiful wave formations inside.  Exploring further I saw a very simple and stunning petroglyph that was carved on the wall in a dark corner.  Special things await for those who explore!












The diversity of this landscape is astounding.  A five minute walk past the Fire Wave brings you to this ridge line comprised of a volcanic composite.  It is as different from the smooth flow of the sandstone wave formations as you can get.  One is drawn to look at the texture more closely.



Looking closer at this composite boulder you can see life thriving.


Our final view of our tour was Fire Canyon and the Silica Dome.  Perhaps nowhere else in the park will you see the contrast of the bright sandstone of the Dome against the dark contrast of the red sandstone.  The Silica Dome gets the light color from a more pure form of silica.  The red comes from the eons of oxidation from a more iron rich seam.  This park is a study in contrasts.

While camped at an ideal location, we enjoyed the Snow Moon every night.






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