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 literally 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 rock formations that have interesting shapes. The Valley Of Fire definitely is one of the most beautiful places on earth, yet because of the animate nature of the terrain, the experience can be intimidating.
The Valley Of Fire has a long timeline of human history and many of the local native people reverently refer to the Valley Of Fire as a sacred place. The Anasazi are one of the most mysterious cultures of all time and they once called the Valley Of Fire their home over 1,000 years ago. The Anasazi are also credited with early agricultural practices in the fertile Moapa Valley.
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 the historical accounts have been long forgotten. Some wisdom keepers refer to the Anasazi as the original Star People or the ancient ones. This is evident in many of the Anasazi petroglyphs that depict star maps, cosmic events and strange looking beings that cannot be easily explained. 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, which adds to the mystery.
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 looking like a petroglyph, so be sure to bring some binoculars for the ride.
Sometime after the Anasazi disappeared, the Paiute began to occupy this region. The Paiute also farmed the fertile Moapa Valley and there was plenty of good hunting in the local mountains, so this tribe grew to become the dominant culture in this part of the west. This tribal nation reveres the Valley Of Fire as a sacred place of great spirit and all it takes is one visit 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 animated shapes that look like they were carved by an artist. At different times of day, light and shadow add to the animate effect. Some rock formations resemble faces, dinosaurs and animals from distant lands. Some of the face shaped rock formations 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 creepy place where the horror movie “The Hills Have Eyes” could have been filmed!
Camping, hiking and rock climbing are popular activities in this wilderness area. Entrance fees are required, just like at the neighboring Lake Mead National recreation Area, which is located beyond the Valley Of Fire east entrance. Campground sites are best reserved at the Nevada State Park website during the busy winter and spring seasons. Finding a campsite is easy to do during the summer months, because most sane people avoid this place when the triple digit heat rolls around. I have camped in the Valley Of Fire in the month of June and it was like being baked in an oven all day and all night!
I have camped out at the Valley Of Fire a few times and the experience certainly 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 is when the creepy fun begins. Thousands of little brown bats roost in the small caves and they all start flying erratically while feeding on insects shortly after sunset. For someone who is new to this scene, it can take a while to figure out that the flying blurry brown things are bats and the first few seconds can be scary.
The animals that stay cool underground by day do start shuffling around shortly after dark and at the same time the moonlight really brings the animated face shaped rocks to life. The weird animal sounds and the dark faces staring back from the rock walls 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 anybody with sensitive nerves, especially after telling a few campfire horror stories.
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 Valley Of Fire access road runs all the way through this State Park to Northshore Road in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Overton is the closest town for stocking up and there are plenty more camping options down by the big lake.
As always, pack plenty of water when hiking in the desert, especially during summer when the triple digit 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 when exploring 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. 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 and as can be seen in the photos, overcast skies make this place look even weirder. One visit is all it takes to become captivated for a lifetime. It is easy to see why so many people return to the Valley Of Fire time and time again to experience this strange animated red rock landscape!
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