Travels in the American Southwest

Valley of Fire

Nevada's oldest State Park, located 55 miles north of Las Vegas via I-15 to SR169. Stock up on beverages and munchies at the Moapa Indian Store located at the I-15/169 exit. Fireworks and tax-free tobacco products available, too.

Valley of Fire features sandstone colored from the palest pink to the deepest crimson carved by the winds into a surreal landscape. As you gaze at the alien landscape, you might experience a case of déjà vu.

Have you ever seen "Star Trek: Generations"? Portions were filmed at Valley of Fire. Head down the gravel road toward Fire Canyon and Silica Dome to see where Captains James T. Kirk and Jon-Luc Picard battled the evil Doctor Soren as the Nexus approached. I happened to be there while the filming was taking place but couldn't convince the lone guard sitting and sweating under an umbrella that I was William Shatner and I was supposed to go past the barricade!

Or maybe you saw "Cherry 2000", a mediocre sci-fi flick depicting life in post-apocalyptic 2017. Another of the many movies filmed in this starkly beautiful park.

Valley of Fire contains many examples of petroglyphs. These artifacts have been dated from 300 BCE to 1150 AD. I always get a chill when I see the outline of the human hand etched on Atlatl Rock. Who did it? Why? Questions that can never be answered. Petroglyphs can best be seen at Atlatl Rock (where a flight of stairs allows close inspection of the 'glyphs) and Petroglyph Canyon which leads to Mouse's Tank, a natural basin where rain water often collects. Even during the blazing heat of summer, water can often be found here. This has saved the life of at least one old prospector according to legend. Mouse's Tank was named for a "renegade" Native-American who used the area as a hideout in the 1890s.

Valley of Fire is home to many species of wildlife. I once saw a desert dwelling chuckwalla plodding along by the Beehives which are red sandstone carved by the wind to resemble (you guessed it)...beehives. The chuckwalla was about 18 inches long with alternating red and green bands of color. Grabbed my trusty Canon AE-1 and shot the reptile until it disappeared into a crag in the rocks. At the White Domes picnic area (fresh water faucet available), small, inoffensive rodent-type creatures zip back and forth, hiding under the desert scrub vegetation. After using the water faucet, step away and dozens of little furry "things" will rush over to lap up what moisture hasn't seeped into the parched ground. I've heard reports of Bighorn Sheep in the Valley of Fire area but have yet to spy one. I have, however, seen these magnificent creatures further south at the scenic overview just west of Hoover Dam.

There is a five dollar entry fee, payable at either entrance or at the Visitor's Center (702) 397-2088. Rest rooms are clustered throughout the southern area of the park. The Visitor's Center contains information about the park and surrounding area as well as selling sundries and film (which is very pricey so bring an extra roll or two with you!). Informative pamphlets available.

For photographers: I've found that early morning and late afternoon provide the most colorful and dramatic scenes. Shadows playing across the red sandstone create an everchanging tableau.

Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire makes a nice 1/2 day trip from the hustle of Las Vegas. Combining V of F with Hoover Dam (via SR 167 - North Shore Road) makes for a full day excursion from Sin City as well as giving the traveller stunning views of Lake Mead.

Located in nearby Overton is the Lost City Museum. Lots of Native American artifacts are displayed as well as re-creations of pueblos and pit dwellings found in the area.

Preview the park:

More on Valley of Fire
Trip Report from 1998
Photographs of Valley of Fire from 2001

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