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Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area - Nevada, USA

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USAThe Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Clark County, Nevada, is a natural area managed by the Bureau of Land Management as part of its National Landscape Conservation System, and protected as a National Conservation Area.

It is about 15 miles / 24 kilometers west of Las Vegas, Nevada and can be handily seen from the Las Vegas Strip. More than three million people visit the area each year.

This conservation area exhibits a prominent set of large red rock formations: sandstone peaks and walls which were formed by thrust faults including the Keystone Thrust.

The walls are up to 3,000 feet / 910 meters high, making them a popular hiking and rock climbing destination. The highest point is La Madre Mountain, at 8,154 feet / 2,485 meters.

A one-way loop road, 13 miles / 21 kilometers long, provides motors vehicle access to many of the features in the area. Several side roads and parking areas allow access to many of the area trails.

A visitor center is at the start of the loop road, a popular spot for bicycle touring which begins with a moderate climb, then is mostly downhill or flat from there.

The Rocky Gap Road in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is a side-canyon accessible only by an unmaintained primitive road from the scenic loop which mostly only 4 wheel drive off-road vehicles with high clearance are able to access.

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USAState Route 159 cuts through the Cottonwood Valley, also a sidetrail of the Old Spanish trail. The Wilson Cliffs, a massive escarpment, can be seen to the west from State Road 159.

Toward the southern end of the National Conservation Area are Spring Mountain Ranch State Park; Bonnie Springs Ranch, which was recently sold in 2019 and closed to the public, which includes a replica of a western ghost town; and the town of Blue Diamond.

The first humans were attracted to the Red Rock area due to its abundance of water, plant, and animal life that could not be easily found in the surrounding desert.

Hunters and gatherers such as the Southern Paiute and the much older Archaic, or Desert Culture Native Americans, have successively occupied this area.

As many as six different Native American cultures may have been present at Red Rock over the millennia. The following chronology is an approximation, from the present to ancient pre-history:

Southern Paiute- 900 to modern times
Patayan Culture - 900 to early 1800s
Anasazi - 1 AD to 1150
Pinto/Gypsum- (Archaic) 3500 BC to 1 AD
San Dieguito - 7000 to 5500 BC
Paleo-Indians (Tule Springs)- 11,000 to 8000 BC

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USANumerous petroglyphs and pottery fragments, remain throughout the area today. In addition, several roasting pits used by the early Native Americans at Red Rock provide further evidence of human activity in the past.

During the early 20th century, around the time that the first Europeans settled in nearby Las Vegas, the Excelsior Company operated a small sandstone quarry near the northern area of the scenic loop.

It proved to be uneconomical and was eventually shut down. Evidence of the quarry's existence includes some of the huge sandstone blocks that its operators left behind.

The Red Rocks have been a film location for such movies as Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger in Bells of San Angelo, filmed in 1947, and was a location for The Stalking Moon with Gregory Peck filmed in 1968.

In 1967, the Bureau of Land Management designated 10,000 acres / 16 square miles - or 40 kilometers squared as being the Red Rock Recreation Lands.

In 1973, the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Federal Conservation Areas held a special hearing in the Foley Federal Office Building in downtown Las Vegas to review a legislative resolution sponsored by Nevada's lone Congressman, David Towell (R-NV).

It was there they established the Red Rock Conservation Area by transferring Federal land to the State of Nevada. Testimony in favor of the bill was given by the Sierra Club and a high school student and environmental activist, Dennis Causey.

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USAThe subcommittee unanimously approved the resolution, sending it to the full Committee on the Interior and subsequently to the full House, followed by favorable action by the U S. Senate and approval by President George H.W. Bush.

Further legislation in 1990 changed the status of the Red Rock Recreation Lands to a National Conservation Area, a status that also provides funds to maintain and protect it. The Federal area was adjacent to the Red Rock State Park.

The Howard Hughes Corporation, developer of Summerlin, has transferred land adjacent to the protected area, to provide a buffer between development and the conservation area.

On the west side, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is adjacent to the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area.

The conservation area is one of the easternmost parts of the Mojave Desert; the lowest elevation of the area, from 3,600 to 4,500 feet or 1,100 to 1,400 meters, is in the Lower Sonoran Zone, while the area from 4,500 feet / 1,400 meters up is in the Upper Sonoran Zone.

The character of the sandstone layers is such that a number of year-round springs may be found in the recesses of the side canyons.

Some 600 species of plants are known in the area. Common types in the valley floor include the Joshua tree, Mojave yucca, banana yucca, creosote, and blackbrush.

Higher up the Utah juniper and Sonoran scrub oak (also called scrub live oak) come to dominate. Agave is easy to spot in red rock niches, with its thick low leaves and flowering stem that reaches twice the height of a man of average height.

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USAThe Calico Tanks trail has a plaque about prehistoric agave roasting pits. Ponderosa pines may be found at the top of the valley, where it connects to the Spring Mountains.

Wild burros are a familiar sight, as are rabbits and ground squirrels. Desert Bighorn Sheep are occasionally seen at higher elevations. During rare spring and summer rainstorms, tiny red-spotted toads can be seen emerging from pools of water.

The Conservation Area is protected habitat for the desert tortoise. A habitat at the Visitor Center houses eight females and two males of the species.

The Red Rock area has a complex geological history, which over millions of years, helped create the region's dramatic landscapes.

The Red Rock area was under an ocean basin during the Paleozoic Era about 600 million years ago. Up to 9,000 feet / 2,700 meters of limey sediments were deposited and eventually lithified to limestone.

During the Mesozoic Era, 250 million years ago, the earth's crust started to rise due to tectonic shifts, and marine shales and sandstones were deposited.

As the basin became isolated evaporite formations of salt and gypsum were deposited. Oxidation of the iron minerals in the sediments resulted in the red colors of some of the rocks.

Deposition by streams and in swamp environments resulted in the formation of petrified wood in the area. By 180 million years ago, the climate continued to change and the area became a desert with vast expanses of huge shifting sand dunes.

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USAThese dunes accumulated over a broad area, up to half a mile or 0.80 kilometers thick, and were lithified, cemented with calcium carbonate and iron oxides. They developed as the colorful Aztec Sandstone of today.

During a mountain-building period called the Laramide orogeny around 66 million years ago, the Keystone Thrust Fault developed. The Keystone is part of a series of thrust faults which ran through much of western North America and through the Red Rock Conservation Area.

The movement of this fault forced the older gray sedimentary rock over the younger red rocks, forming the varicolored landscape that can be seen in the mountain today. The thrust is exposed over a distance of 13 miles or 21 kilometers along the Red Rock escarpment.

The Lee Canyon thrust plate may contain over 4,000 ft or 1,200 meters of terrigenous rocks at the base. The Wheeler Pass thrust may contain at least 11,000 ft / 3,300 meters of these rocks as well.

Red Rock provides a wide variety of recreational activities, the most popular being hiking, biking, rock scrambling, and rock climbing.

Horseback riding and camping are also allowed on specific trails and in designated areas. Automobile and motorcycle clubs often conduct group drives through the 13-mile scenic drive, but ATV use is not permitted in the area.

Aside from the obvious dangers from climbing rock faces and cliffs, visitors are informed that temperatures can routinely exceed 105 °F / 41 °C in the summer, so they must bring plenty of water.

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USAVisitors hiking into the backcountry off established trails are advised against traveling alone, and should inform other people of their plans. Risks include the presence of venomous rattlesnakes and flash flooding and lightning from thunderstorms.

Although the Yosemite-size walls offer a host of challenging lines, technical rock climbing activity in Red Rock was not recorded before 1968. The first modern routes, climbed in the early 1970s, are described in several books.

The rock is Aztec Sandstone, a relatively solid variety with a hard surface varnish. Many climbs involve ascents of single crack systems hundreds of feet long.

The climbs of Red Rock cover a broad range of length and difficulty. The long, easy routes had made the area a common climbing training ground, but the canyon also offers many difficult climbs as well.

In recent decades, this broad appeal and the classic nature of many routes has made the area an international destination for rock climbers.

Popular sport climbing areas include the Calico Hills and Sandstone Quarry. Red Rock has a multitude of traditional climbing areas, including single-pitch areas such as Brass Wall and Necromancer Wall, along with multi-pitch areas such as Eagle Wall, Aeolian Wall, Mescalito, and Solar Slab.

Long free and big-wall aid routes are found on features such as the Rainbow Wall and Buffalo Wall. Bouldering is popular in Red Rock as well, primarily at the Kraft Boulders and Black Velvet Canyon.

Hiking on the White Rock Mountain Loop Trail. One of the many trails that can be seen by visitors to Red Rock. The area has numerous hiking trails and picnic areas.

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USATrails are changed and diverted depending upon the needs of the ecosystem. In early spring, depending upon the precipitation, waterfalls may be seen on the edge of the canyons.

Popular trails within the vicinity of the scenic drive loop include the Moenkopi Loop, Calico Hills, Calico Tanks, Turtlehead Peak, Keystone Thrust, White Rock/La Madre Springs Loop, and the Ice Box Canyon trail.

Several significant wildfires have burned within the Red Rock Canyon NCA in recent years, including:

1998 – A fire occurred in the loop area. By 2003, regrowth has made it difficult to find the burn area.

June 25, 2005 – The Goodsprings fire consumed more than 31,600 acres of 49.4 square miles or 128 square kilometers, burning into Red Rock NCA's southern area.

July 22, 2005 – Lightning caused an 800-acre or 1.3 square mile; 3.2 square kilometer fire in the loop area.

September 6, 2006 – Another fire was started by lightning in the loop near the visitor center and burned around 1,500 acres / 2.3 square miles; 6.1 square kilometers.

July 2013 – The Carpenter I fire. Burned mainly in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, but encroached on the northwest portion of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It can be easily viewed[when?] from SR 157 Kyle Canyon Road. Caused by lightning in Trout Canyon nearby.

Damage caused by wildfires, as well as evidence of the ability of the desert to heal itself over time, is visible from the loop road.

Recent fires were in part fueled by the thick growth of invasive species red brome and cheat grasses. The Bureau of Land Management has not developed plans to control these species, because control methods, such as using herbicides, can be costly and damaging to native plants.

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USAThe Definitive Guide to ROCK CLIMBING IN RED ROCKS, NEVADA - www.redrocksguidebook.com

This is a comprehensive guide to the rock climbs found in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, twenty miles to the west of the famous Las Vegas Strip in Southern Nevada.

Red Rocks offers the climber everything from sport routes to big aid walls and long free routes. The reliable weather, beautiful surroundings and great climbing make Red Rocks one of North America's best and most popular destinations during the fall, winter, and spring.

This book provides detailed information on over 2300 rock climbs, using full written descriptions, maps, topos and photodiagrams. This new edition includes over 400 previously unpublished routes.

Notable recent developments include the addition of a large number of entry-level and moderate sport routes in the Calico Hills; it is probably true to say that Red Rocks now has one of the biggest collections of such climbs in the country.

At the other end of the difficulty spectrum, the free ascents of old, big-wall aid climbs in the canyons has resulted in the addition of a batch of fantastic long, free routes.

One of the most notable developments in recent years has been the emergence of Red Rocks as a world class bouldering area. All the bouldering is documented in Tom Moulins’ superb guidebook, Southern Nevada Bouldering.

Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area - Nevada, USAMountain Skills rock climbing adventures. Mountain Skills offers guided trips to the best rock climbing destinations in Las Vegas, Nevada, Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico, Thailand, New York, and Mexico.

If the routes in the photographs throughout this book seem unfamiliar, that’s because I have made a deliberate attempt to shoot new and/or obscure routes.

In order to save some space, the updated history of climbing in Red Rocks, as well as the historical essays that appeared in the previous edition have now been moved to the website.

In the next few years the BLM is going to be making a series of improvements to the basic infrastructure of Red Rocks. This is going to include expansion of the existing parking areas and possibly the addition of several new ones.

Also, it seems likely that there is going to be some sort of return option from the Sandstone Quarry parking area, either making the existing road to that point two way or building an entirely new road back to the Visitor Center.


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