|Valley of Fire
One of the most beautiful features of the desert are the brillant red rocks that
are scattered throughout southern Nevada. These vivid hues can be best observed in
the appropriately named, Valley of Fire.
Looking across the barren, hot, desert valley it is hard to believe that 600 milion
years ago the entire area was under water. Animal and plant life was abundant here
at that time and as the waters subsided over the next 400 million years the thriving
ocean floor became a unique desert valley. The sandstone rocks vary in color from
deep reds and purples to tans and whites and their unique formations have been formed
by millions of years of erosion, wind and climatic change.
Some of the most interesting rock formations are the "Seven Sisters" which
are seven unusal rock formations which stand in a row. They are remnants from the
harsh erosion which has changed their shape over the years.
Ancient and Modern Man in the Valley of Fire
To look at this harsh desert landscape it is difficult to believe that ancient people
once thrived here. Evidence of their lifestyle has been left behind in petroglyphic
drawings. A few archaelogists believe that people lived here as long ago as 15,000
years although that assumption has been unproven most would agree that man was present
here about 4,000 years ago. Small enclaves of families roamed and hunted in this
area. Their main diet consisted of bighorn sheep and smaller game such as rabbits
and tortoises. The first record of Europeans in the area was when the famous mountain
man Jedediah Smith, who led the first party of fur trappers into the area in 1826.
He was followed by Kit Carson in the 1840s. Just like a tale from an old western
movie the Europeans and the Paiute people who had inhabited this area fought over
the ownership of the land and its animals.
One of the greatest legends of the Valley of Fire is about a
Paiute Indian named Mouse. Mouse was a known outlaw who worked
on ferry that crossed the Colorado River. After a drunken episode
where he shot up an Indian camp his employers fired him and
dumped him off in Arizona. There, it is said, he killed two
prospectors. A intensive search was conducted but Mouse could
not be found. Apparently during these episodes Mouse would flee
to the Valley of Fire to hide out. Here he would sometimes use
"Mouse's Tank", a depression in the rocks that catches
and holds rainwater for a time after storms. Mouse's Tank is
well hidden within the maze of rock formations on the Petroglyph
Canyon floor, a perfect hideout for a fugitive. On July 11,
1897 a posse tracked Mouse near Muddy Spring and ordered him
to surrender. Mouse would not give up and after a gun fight
with the law Mouse was shot and killed.
Valley of Fire located 55 miles from Las Vegas it spans more
than 37,000 acres. Nevada's first state park, composed of stunning
formations and a wealth of Indian artifacts and petroglyphs.
The Valley of Fire vistors' center provides information on the
park's history and geology, http://parks.nv.gov/vf.htm.
The Lost City Museum is located nearby. Call the vistor center
at 702.397.2088 or visit dmla.clan.lib.nv.us/docs/museums/lost/lostcity.htm.