This March 2016, Alie and I reaped a benefit from the 2013 U.S. government shutdown. You may recall a political dispute “shut down” the government for 16 days in October that year.
Alie’s sister Michelle was visiting Las Vegas in 2013 and wanted to take a day trip to Zion National Park. But it was closed to the public by the shutdown. Still wanting a break from Vegas, she visited a Nevada State Park, the Valley of Fire. We enjoyed and the photographs she brought back and decided to see it ourselves in 2016.
Created in 1935, it is Nevada’s first state park. It is easy to reach from Las Vegas. One takes I-15 North to Exit 75 and then heads east about 17 miles on Valley of Fire Highway to the west entrance.
As we were near Boulder City and no longer “destination driving,” we took the slower but more scenic Nevada 167, Northshore Road, through the Lake Mead Recreation Area to the east entrance.
The park is great for picnicking and hiking (remember, however, it is in the Mojave Desert). As it was still cool, we did have a picnic. But we were there for the scenery.
150 million years ago in the Jurassic Period, the age of dinosaurs, it was an area of huge blowing sand dunes. Some are estimated to have been 3000 feet deep.
Covered and compressed, the dunes became sandstone. As seas rose and declined over millions of years, the water table rose to a variety of levels. Depending on the level of water, minerals were deposited and/or oxidized to different degrees. Limestone, shale and conglomerates were also laid down in layers.
These multi-colored layers were then heaved upward, bent and fractured. As more millions of years passed, wind and water eroded the stone into the fantastic shapes we have today. The dominant red is oxidized iron – rust.
In some areas, a thin dark “desert varnish” formed over thousands of years. Composed of iron and manganese, scientists have offered several theories as to how it is formed. Early First Americans often carved petroglyphs into the varnish. When we asked one ranger why these petroglyphs weren’t obliterated by more desert varnish during the hundreds of years that have passed since they were drawn, she explained it was simply because it has only been about five hundred years and the varnish takes thousands of years to form.
Click on photos to enlarge.