Since Lisa’s sister was visiting, we decided on another trip, this time to Red Rock Canyon, which is next to the Mount Charleston, Humboldt Toyabe National Forest. Red Rock Canyon was designated as Nevada’s first National Conservation Area. Red Rock Canyon is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. The area is 195,819 acres and is visited by more than one million people each year. In marked contrast to a town geared to entertainment and gaming, Red Rock offers enticements of a different nature including a 13-mile scenic drive, more than 30 miles of hiking trails, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and visitor center with exhibit rooms and a book store. The BLM is the largest administrator of public lands in the West. It adheres to the policy of multiple use, by providing recreational opportunities, protection for cultural sites, and the management of natural resources, including wildlife.
As I said above, to get to Red Rock Canyon, you go out Charleston Boulevard to the well marked turnoff into the canyon. The 13 mile road through the park is one way, so it is good to take some water or something to drink.
This is again the right combination of altitude and moisture for Joshua trees and Yucca and you will find them in abundance throughout the park. Unfortunately, we had a fire in the center of the park a few years ago and there are some areas with smaller plants regrowing the desert. Joshua trees (and most other yuccas) rely on the female pronuba Moth (Tegeticula) for pollination. No other animal visiting the blooms transfers the pollen from one flower to another. The Joshua tree can live up to 200 years, meaning these larger trees may have been here before European explorers ever visited the area.
The big draw for the park is the first stop, where you find a spectacular formation of red rocks, as you can see above. The unique geologic features, plants and animals of Red Rock represent some of the best examples of the Mojave Desert. In 1990, special legislation supported by the Nevada congressional delegation, changed the status of the Red Rock Recreation Lands to a National Conservation Area, the seventh to be designated nationally. This legislation provides the funding to protect and improve the area. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is enjoyed by the local population as well as visitors from the United States and many foreign countries. One million visitors each year enjoy the spectacular desert landscape, climbing and hiking opportunities, and interpretive programs sponsored by the BLM. Unless you are an experienced rock climber, be careful about clambering up the inviting rocks. Every year or two someone is injured or even dies after falling from the rocks.
You can see the other side of the valley from the first stop and while not quite as picturesque from a distance, most of the hiking trails are on the other side, some of them with little streams.
When you get closer to the other side, near the end of the loop, the views become really impressive, in a different sense to the pure red rock formation across the valley. Stunning red striped vistas and relatively green zones reveal the small creeks that trickle down down the valleys. This is the side of the park that has most of the hiking trails and picnic areas.
Instead of returning to Las Vegas via Charleston Boulevard, we decided to keep going in an arc ending up on Blue Diamond Road/State 160. It is fairly green in this area as well due to a variety of small springs and creeks.
We drove into Bonnie Springs Ranch, a little place with a motel, petting zoo, old west town, music on the weekends and as you can see above, a railroad. A great place to take the kids for lunch and a little adventure. We also manage to see two wild burro’s on the side of the road. BLM protects and manages wild horses and burros under the authority of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 to ensure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands. Don’t try to feed them, there is now a $500 fine for feeding wild burros and/or horses if you get caught. I hope these pictures will convince you to leave the hotel while visiting Las Vegas to experience the beauty of the Mojave desert.
BLM Red Rock Conservation Area: http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/lvfo/blm_programs/blm_special_areas/red_rock_nca.html
Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Society: http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org/
Joshua Trees: http://mojavedesert.net/trees/yucca-brevifolia/
Bonnie Springs Ranch: https://bonniesprings.com