Here’s a question from a reader of RVtravel.com about boondocking.
We spend part of our winter in Las Vegas, but would like to visit other nearby points of interest for a few days. We don’t need hookups so where do you suggest we go? —Marsha and Donald
Hi Marsha and Donald,
I’m glad you asked. One of my favorite state parks is in Nevada and is worth the one-hour drive from Las Vegas. (I previously wrote the following fanciful description of Valley of Fire SP, for a magazine article.)
“Mother Nature looked out over the vast, flat Great Basin Desert and, struck by a whimsical urge, began laying down multiple layers of sandstone and limestone, zapping them with oxides of iron and other minerals. Then, using the tools at her command – wind, water, rain, sand and ice – she began to carve and whittle. She took her time, stretching her project over millions of years – she was not in a hurry. Finally, she was satisfied with the fantasmagorical shapes, arches, caves, hoodoos, cliffs, canyons and domes that now lay scattered about the desert floor in an expressionistic multi-hued example of her creativity.”
Valley of Fire is truly this magical place. As long as 2000 years ago the Gypsum people hunted bighorn sheep here with the atlatl, a device used to throw a spear with deadly force. The Basketmakers, Anasazi and southern Paiutes that followed all left records of their real-life drama in paintings and carvings on the walls of rocky outcroppings. Though a few trappers wandered through later and Mormon pioneers settled in the mid-1800s, the isolation of the valley ended after the turn of the century when Americans began their love affair with the automobile and motor touring. Visitors came from great distances to see and try to understand the intriguing petroglyphs etched into the rocks.
Fortunately, Nevadans with foresight acted in time to save and preserve this magical red rock wonderland as Nevada’s first state park. You can get up close to many of its features, such as Atlatl Rock, where a metal staircase climbs up a rock face just past the entrance to the campground providing up-close viewing of some of the best examples of these rock carvings, including a depiction of a hunter using the atlatl. You can see more petroglyphs scattered about the rock faces if you walk back toward the campground (some with hookups) from the Atlatl Rock parking area. The fine red rock sand that comprises the desert floor beneath the rocks is also a good place to look for critter tracks. You might find badger, pack rat, roadrunner, rabbit and coyote tracks. Additional excellent examples of prehistoric art are found in Petroglyph Canyon and the trail to Mouse’s Tank.
The Visitor Center is the logical first stop, where you can pick up a map of the auto tour routes, viewpoints, hikes, campgrounds, petroglyphs and locations of the unusual rock shapes like Elephant Rock, Grand Piano, Duck Rock, the Beehives, Arch Rock, and the Seven Sisters, that show the effect weather and erosion play on the soft rocks.
Do you have a question for Bob? Email him at bob.rvtravel (at) gmail.com .