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USA: Nevada: Carson City, Cathedral Gorge, Ely, Great Basin, Hoover Dam - Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Lehman Caves, Primm, Red Rock Canyon, Reno, Virginia City
Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, USA: Shining bright on its own
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Red Rock Canyon, just 15 miles west of Las Vegas, presents awe-inspiring views most wouldn't expect to see near a major metropolitan city. In contrast to the bright lights and hype of the Strip, Red Rock offers desert beauty, towering red cliffs and abundant wildlife.
I was in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, for a business conference. On one of the days I had the option to opt for a half-day tour of Red Rock Canyon. Our host was The Pink Jeep Tour Company. As the name suggests, the company has specially fitted Jeeps which are painted in conspicuous pink colour. Seats are quite comfortable. That works as a bonus if you plan to use the vehicles for some off-road adventure. Their drivers double up as excellent guides. We departed at 9AM from our hotel The Green Valley Ranch. In less than 30 minutes, we were at the gates of Red Rock Canyon.
The mountains in the Red Rock area were formed by a number of geological forces including fractured faults where the earth's crust collided over millions of years and fossilized sand dunes. Some cliffs reach up an astounding 3,000 feet. The sandstone rocks in the conservation area get their colour from iron oxide. Over centuries the iron oxide built up, producing the vibrant, crimson colour of the canyon that we see today.
Our first stop, and quite rightfully so was the Red Rock Visitor Centre. It is divided into four large sections: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. Within these four sections, you will get the opportunity to read about history, geography and animal and plant life.
Serious hikers and visitors may spend more time than what we had on hand. Like many, we opted to drive the 13-mile scenic loop. This one way road exposes visitors to the geological history and splendour of the canyon. We made brief stops at Indian roasting pits, Indian "handprints" and pictographs at Willow Springs. It was fascinating to learn about the lifestyles of the early Indians.
Our tour included a few miles off-road journey. Whilst taking this de-tour from Willow Springs, I got to see a few bighorn sheep, majestically basking on the edge of a cliff a few hundred feet above ground. This amazing conservation area is also home to about 200 different mammals which include burros, rabbits, coyotes, red tailed hawks, golden eagles, hummingbirds and even a few wild horses, bobcats and mountain lions. To see them all you need to have plenty of time. And you need to be lucky.
One of the more scenic parts of Red Rock Canyon is the Keystone Thrust Fault. Here, millions of years ago, two of the earth's plates collided with such force that part of one plate was shoved up and over the other. This created a magnificent contrast between grey limestone and red sandstone.
Whilst driving on the 13-mile loop, we took a few picture stops. By 3PM we were back at our hotel.
Red Rock Canyon Image Gallery Photo viewer
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