Valley Of Fire State Park ~ Nevada
The Valley Of Fire is the oldest Nevada State Park and this vast wilderness area is a registered National Natural Landmark. The Valley Of Fire landscape is interesting beyond belief and this ominous red sandstone outcrop area has captivated visitors for thousands of years! This unique valley is like a labyrinth of crimson red sandstone that is full of small caves and hidden pocket canyons. Wind erosion has sculpted the red sandstone over time and there are many eroded rock formations that have animate shapes. The Valley Of Fire is one of the most eerily beautiful places on earth and for some this can be quite an intimidating place to visit.
The Valley Of Fire has a very long timeline of human history. Native American tribes of the Desert Southwest reverently refer to the Valley Of Fire as a sacred place. One of the most mysterious human cultures of all time once called the Valley Of Fire and the fertile Moapa Valley their home. The Anasazi Tribe left plenty of clues about their culture throughout this region in the form of petroglyphs and complex structures that continue to baffle modern man to this day.
Some historians say that the Anasazi were a pre-Incan culture that migrated from South American to the Desert Southwest. Many of the buildings and structures that the Anasazi built are so old that many modern tribes do not recall what the structures were actually used for. Some wisdom keepers in the Hopi and Havasupai tribes refer to the Anasazi as the original Star People. This is evident in many of the Anasazi petroglyphs that depict star maps, cosmic events and strange looking beings that cannot be explained with conventional science. The local petroglyphs are just about all that remains of this culture in the Moapa Valley region. Nobody knows for sure where the Anasazi went or what happened to them.
The ancient Anasazi petroglyphs can be seen throughout the Valley Of Fire, but there are only a few official “newspaper rock” viewing areas. One is located by the roadside and this site has a wooden pathway. On a rainy day, like the day I photographed this State Park, the petroglyphs are easier to see when the rocks are wet. This is especially true for the very ancient petroglyphs that are so faded that they normally cannot be seen when the red rock surfaces are dry. Trying too hard to spot petroglyphs on a rainy day can result in every blemish on the canyon walls ending up looking like a petroglyph. This sure can drive a visitor batty when exploring this creepy red rock labyrinth of a canyon! Then again, all it takes is one look at an old Anasazi petroglyph that few others have seen to inspire philosophical thoughts for many years to come.
At sometime after the Anasazi disappeared a few thousand years ago, the Paiute People occupied this region. The Paiute farmed the fertile Moapa Valley and there was plenty of good hunting in the local mountains. The Paiute grew to become the predominant culture in this part of the Desert Southwest and the Paiute Tribal Nation reveres the Valley Of Fire as a sacred place of great spirit. All that a person has to do is visit the Valley Of Fire to see why.
If there ever was a place on earth where the rocks could tell stories, the Valley Of Fire is it. Each natural red sandstone outcrop offers thousands of interesting shapes to see that look like they were carved by artists with many stories to tell. At different times of day, the effect of light and shadow creates even more visions to see in the red rock formations. Some rock formations resemble faces, dinosaurs and animals from distant lands. Some of the face shaped rock formation look like are in deep philosophical thought, while others are wearing hilariously funny expressions. There are some steep rocky cliffs that have thousands of small pocket caves that start to look like thousands of dark eyes staring right back, so the Valley Of Fire truly is a place where the horror movie “The Hills Have Eyes” could have been filmed!
Camping, hiking and rock climbing are popular activities at this wilderness area. Entrance fees are required, just like at the neighboring Lake Mead National recreation Area, which is located beyond the east entrance to the Valley Of Fire. Campground sites are best reserved at the Nevada State Park website during the busy winter and spring seasons. Finding a campsite is easy during the summer months, because most sane people avoid this place when the extreme heat rolls around. I have camped in the Valley Of Fire in the month of June and it was like being baked in a hot sauna all day and all night!
I have camped out at the Valley Of Fire a few times and the experience is one of a kind. By day, exploring the area and seeing the amazing shapes of the red sandstone formations amounts to some great entertainment. After the sun sets, that is when the creepy fun begins. Thousands of Desert Brown Bats roost in the thousands of small caves and they start flying all over the place shortly after sunset. For someone new to this scene, it takes a while to figure out that the flying blurry brown things are bats and the first few seconds can be scary! Meanwhile, the animals that stay cool underground by day start shuffling around everywhere shortly after dark and at the same time the moonlight really brings the face shaped rocks to life. The weird animal sounds and the dark faces staring back from the rock walls can really creep a visitor completely out of their mind at night! This place has an eerie feel at night and it can be downright scary at times. A sudden noise in the dead silence of night in the Valley Of Fire can scare the living bejesus out of somebody with sensitive nerves, especially after telling campfire stories about the secret underground alien base that is located a few miles away!
The Valley Of Fire State Park is located on I-15 about 30 minutes north of Las Vegas and it is about the same distance south of Mesquite, Nevada. The Moapa Paiute Tribal Casino and Travel Plaza is the landmark to look for when traveling on I-15 and The Valley Of Fire access road starts at this location. The Moapa Paiute Casino and Tribal Gift Shop is well worth checking out while there and the restaurant serves some comfortable food when it is open.
The Valley Of Fire access road runs all the way through this State Park to Northshore Road in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. About half of the picturesque Valley Of Fire red sandstone outcrops actually are located just beyond the boundaries of the State Park in the Lake Mead territory, so in order to do a complete tour of the Valley Of Fire, a visitor must continue on past the east entrance gate.
As always, pack plenty of water when hiking in the desert, especially during summer when the high temperatures can be life threatening. Being aware of the surroundings is advisable too, because scorpions, gila monsters, tarantulas and rattlesnakes hide under rocks during the heat of the day. Reaching into dark places on the sandstone rock formations is risky business, so it pays to not be too curious in this vast wilderness area.
An odd thing that happens often at the Valley Of Fire during the hot summer season is swarms of worker bees will approach visitors at the campsites. The honey bees are docile and there is no need to worry or freak out. I had this happen a few time while doing summer camping at the Valley Of Fire. The bees only swarm around human campers because they sense water in a canteen or bottle. Honey Bees get thirsty in the desert, just like humans do. If a swarm of worker bees starts hanging around, just pour some water into a dished out area on a rock and watch the bees slurp the water up. Being friendly with wild honey bees is always better than the alternative!
The Valley Of Fire State Park certainly is one of the most unique landscapes on earth! One visit to the Valley Of Fire and it is easy to see why so many people return to explore more. This is an ancient heritage site, so plenty can be learned during a visit. The Valley Of Fire is one scenic destination that simply must be chalked high on the list, especially when planning a trip to Las Vegas!