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Red Rock Canyon (USA)

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Country: USA / National Park International / World Region: Nevada - The Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center is a focal point for visitor orientation. The multiple facilities offer information and interpretation about recreation opportunities, wildlife, wild horses and burros, vegetation, geology, cultural resources and much more.

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      07.11.2011 23:46
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      Red Rock Rocks!

      Back in 2007, I took the trip that I had been wanting to do since my teenage days, and finally got to see Las Vegas and the Mojave Desert. This, for a less-travelled person such as myself was a big deal, and one of my top ten the places to visit. I find the mixture of human indulgence and extravagance, set in the natural geological beauty of the american west a fascinating concept. Of course, I wanted to balance my trip with the bright lights of Vegas with the surrounding natural wonders, and one of the places I saw was Red Rock Canyon, just outside of Las Vegas itself. I have never wrote about my experiences here, so I thought this would be a good place to start as it served as a precursor to visiting the much more impressive Grand Canyon. These is my thoughts on this wonderful and unique area of the Mojave desert, Red Rock Canyon.

      --Rocks are Red, Sky's are Blue, Vegas is...Neon??--

      After getting settled in to the surroundings of such an infamous city, looking for the many places to visit outside Las Vegas was a top priority, and the first area me and the girlfriend went to was Red Rock Canyon. Under the protection of the Bureau of Land Management, the Canyon is a National Conservation Area, and so cannot to built on or effected by it's neighbouring concrete and neon sideshow. The area spans nearly 200,000 acres, and has a striking red and orange colours to the landscape that can be seen clearly from the highway as you approach.

      Red Rock Canyon's history goes right back over 600 million years, and today is a visual masterpeice of geolocical formations interspersed with the native plants and wildlife of Nevada. The primary rocks and boulders that make up the area are a mixture of limestone, sandstone and petrified wood. Many of the mountains have names, such as the Calico Hills, and are signified by the red colours that runs through the landscape as a result of oxidisation and the development of natural compression to the Earth crust. This has created what is know as the Keystone Trust, a line of red, grey and sometimes yellow fault rock that produces a layered effect to the rocks, walls and ridges. This is quite amazing to see first hand, as is the wind sculpted Aztec Sandstone, a real physical demonstration of the power of the Earth's elements. Taking time to stop and stare, the contrast of the colourful landscape with the clear blue sky is a breathtaking, and is a beautiful picture painted only by the higher forces of nature.

      After being declared a protected area in the 1960's, mostly the area has been left unaltered, with the only additions of a small visitor centre, sporadic toilets and picnic tables, and a basic scenic roadway that follows the natural lines of the mountains.

      --Getting There and Prices--

      Red Rock Canyon is approximately 24 miles from McCarran Airport, and from the centre of Las Vegas where many of the hotels are, is a rather direct route along Charlston Boulevard (Route 159) heading west out of the city centre. You will have to drive, as I'm not aware of any public transport passing Red Rock Canyon, apart from the more expensive coach excursions you can find in the hotels and tourist information places in Vegas. Along the way, there are several signposts to guide you to the canyon, and the primary entrance is clearly signed with a brown and red sign, set into rock and themed to match with the essence of the area. This takes you about 50 minutes to an hour to reach, so it's not a long drive. After you come off the highway, there is a small complex of payment kiosks which lead you onto the main Scenic loop road up to the visitor centre ran by the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association.

      I thought the prices here, for being so close to an affluent tourist attraction are very good. For a car to enter, no matter how many occupants is $7, and for this you get to see the museum and have the freedom of exploring the Canyon in your own time. For bikes and people walking it is $3 each. You can also buy an annual pass to the scenic loop for $30. After the entry prices however, the normal form is restored for the cost of refreshments and souvenirs for the typical tourist. This is expected and not a major headache, my bottle of Diet Coke cost me $3!

      The scenic loop road is open every day of the year with times changing slightly during the year.
      November to February - 6am to 5pm
      March - 6am to 7pm
      April to September - 6am to 8pm
      October - 6am to 7pm
      The visitor center is open daily from 8am to 4.30pm

      --Visitor Center and Facilities--

      The visitor center building is a flat, modern but not outlandish design in natural colours of greys and browns. It doesn't stand out or spoil the views of the canyon, and creates a nice portal to what your person trail of exploration may contain. It has a generous car park, spaced with wooden rails and stone pathways. The roads here are tarmacked, but lead onto the rustic road style of the scenic loop. The doors and areas inside are wide and quite spacous, allowing for disabled access well. It's clean and well presented, and the displays of the history of the canyon are interesting, eye-catching and clear to read. One exhibit is a lovely dipiction of the four natural elements and how they have combined over the centuries to colour and shape the rocks of the canyon, this is all rather humbling and enjoyable to learn about. Their are also viewing areas from inside and outside, for photographs of the landscape to be taken, as well as an outside area focusing on the animals and plant life that can be found in the vicinity. Everything is very well presented, and really inspires you to go out into the canyon and find what you will.

      The toilet facilities inside the visitor center are clean, and take advantage of this, because once you are out into the canyon, the few toilets that are there are simple wooden shacks that sometimes are just holes in the ground. Modern and new buildings and areas are not common, thus keeping the park as natural as possible. Liquid refreshments are available from vending machines and the gift store, the latter being the only slightly congested part of the complex. Many books and guides are sold here, with a mixture of natural rock fragments and sometimes the typical tacky souvenirs like keychains and ornaments for sale, all at rather inflated, but predictable prices. The staff are knowledgeable and polite, and will gladly help you with information about hiking, climbing, horse-riding and camping activies the park provides.

      --A Red Rocky Road--

      Setting off from the visitor center, armed with a guide map and drinks, we followed the road up to the first formation of rocks and immediately stopped to admire planet Earth's nature. There are designated stopping points all along the scenic loop, and it is really the form to stop here if you wish to have a wonder around, but you can stop on the loop anytime if you take care to park out of the way. The guide map can show you where to look, and what names the peaks and rocks have been given, and it's fun to identify these throughout your trip. Each time we stopped, I took it upon myself to do a little hiking and climbing up the more safer slopes and boulders. Apart from a few cut pathways leading into various formations and places of interest, its mainly been left for nature to take its course, so be wary of your constraints and physical ability. Not everyone can climb up onto a rather unsafe looking rock, so take care and be careful of what you choose to do, as a fall will hurt. A Lot.

      During my scampering around and scuttling up peaks like a kid in a playground, you can forget how awe-inspiring the surroundings are. The colours and patterns of the keystone thrust fault lines are amazing, and almost look like they have been painted onto the rocks, but no human artist could create such natural beauty. The size of some of the rocks and walls is surprising too, looking like small peaks from a distance and thinking "I want to climb that!", and getting there to discover to would be hard pushed to achieve that in a safe manner. At one point, I ran up a sloped ridge, which was rather hazardous with some sharp looking desert plants poking out of it, bush grasses and many cracks and crevices to get a foot stuck down. I came to the top, and looked out, and simply became a statue of Red Rock Canyon. The views are incredible, the horizon of red peaks against the barrenness of the Mojave and the perfect blue sky really do make you admire what our planet has to offer. You can also find the early human interaction with the canyon too, and chancing upon the petroglyph's carved into the sandstone by native Americans many years ago is yet another reminder of the history the canyon has to offer.

      After a brief picnic stop, we continued to follow the loop road, and at some points there are side roads leading off into other parts of the canyon. These are for off-road vehicles only, and you have to have permission to use them, so don't take your hired jalopy down one. Whilst exploring, some parts of the canyon are like a maze of rocks and flora, so be aware of where you parked and where the rest of your companions are. Keep and eye out to for any wildlife. A few cheeky lizards and jack-rabbits bouncing over the desert floor I personally spotted, but rattlesnakes can be hiding in some cracks, so be careful of this. Some of the formations have small freshwater pools and oasis's, and again bring an added beauty to the canyon, and the odd waterwall looks very temping in the desert heat indeed.

      After you have finally decided to leave and finish, which I assure you will be when you are exhausted, you can follow the loop road either back to the visitor center, or exit the canyon via re-joining the highway which you came in from. This exit is a few miles further away from Vegas, but gives you one last time to gaze at the canyon from afar, tipping a final nod to a wonderful place before returning to the madness of Las Vegas.

      --Conclusion--

      I know a lot of people will travel to Las Vegas, solely wanting to experience to hustle and excitement of Sin City itself. This is also a great experience of course, but after witnessing a natural attraction like Red Rock Canyon, puts the fakery and self-importance of Vegas to shame. I would recommend wholeheartedly you visit Red Rock Canyon if you are staying in Vegas. It makes for a nice change from the bright lights and big money, and returns you to a more grounded view of what Nevada was all about. Take a camera, have a reliable car and remember to pack refreshments, and this trip makes a lovely day out to admire nature, and if you are going to visit the Grand Canyon too, makes it all the more impressive when you get there. Very good prices with all the bases covered for tourists, Red Rock Canyon is a terrific place to see and appreciate, with views that you won't forget in a hurry.

      For more information, visit - http://redrockcanyonlv.org/

      Thanks For Reading. © Novabug

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