Last week Donny and I were treated to a Las Vegas vacation, thanks to the generosity and big-heartedness of his brother Bob. Most vacationers head to Las Vegas to enjoy the gambling and night life. Although we did partake in a bit of gambling, most of our time was spent visiting the many beautiful, scenic mountains and valleys in the desert.
Las Vegas sits in the desert basin, and is surrounded by mountains. For two die-hard midwesterners who have never spent time in the desert, it was like visiting an alien world. One could imagine the desert basin as it once was, the bottom of an ocean, with the twisted, spiny cactus that looked like they had sea urchins growing off the ends! The earth’s upheaval millions of years ago created mountains of bronze, yellow, red, white, blue, gray; rivers wore paths through the mountains and eons of erosion have created some of the most gorgeous natural artwork in existence.
Although we saw many natural wonders while in Nevada, my favorite spot on this trip was the Valley of Fire State Park. The Valley of Fire was considered sacred ground by the Native Americans, and once you’ve seen it for yourself, you can understand why. When sunlight hits the red sandstone formations just right, they glow as if they were on fire! Almost the entire valley was created from red sandstone, and also contains petrified wood, shale, limestone and conglomerates. Prehistoric petroglyphs can be seen in places.
One feature of the Valley of Fire that I found unique were the stick-like shrubs that were actually a light blue color! They made a striking contrast against the red sand and rock formations.
The Valley of Fire is the oldest state park in Nevada (dedicated in 1935), and is located about 50 miles northeast of Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert. Visitors pass through the Moapa Indian Reservation as they enter the park. Entrance fees are a reasonable $6.00 per vehicle per day, or a yearly pass may be obtained for $40. Pets are welcome at the Valley of Fire, but must be kept on a short leash.
The state park is opened year round, from daybreak to nightfall, and camping is available. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and include shaded tables, restrooms, water and grills. Other than camping, there is no lodging available at the Valley of Fire, but there are many motels and hotels along Interstate 15 from Las Vegas, and lodging is also available in nearby Overton, Nevada, 16 miles away.
The new visitor’s center was still under construction during our visit, but promises interactive displays and exhibits on the history, prehistory and ecology of the area. Any vacationers who plan to visit the Las Vegas area should consider taking a side trip to the Valley of Fire. It is a true work of art, and makes one realize that there is nothing created by humans that even comes close to matching the natural beauty created by God.