Thursday, June 11, 2009

Red Rock Canyon

Just outside of Las Vegas is a place that is really amazing that I got to visit yesterday. It is Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Here is the official government site. Apparently it is one of the top five rock climbing destinations in the U.S. The BLM (Bureau of Land Management - the overseeing government organization) claims there are over two thousand climbing routes and nineteen different hiking trails. I don't know, I've got acrophobia. But some of the rock really is red!

The part of the park that I really liked was a little side area called Red Spring. It shows, very dramatically I thought, what some water does to the desert. There are certainly many small springs like this throughout the mountains but this is easily accessible by over a million visitors a year. Here is a photo of the little canyon that is below the spring.

Quite different from the desert landscape that I'm always photographing, isn't it. Because it is so heavily visited one is required to stay on the built-up wooden pathway but that works for me; otherwise all this life would be trampled by people. Now to the cool thing. We do get some rain around here. Most hits the ground and runs off which can cause flash floods but some does seep into the ground. There is a lot of limestone and sandstone around here that lets the water into the aquifer and some escapes as a spring. Here is the spring that makes such a difference to the life in this little canyon.

That spring was perhaps a yard (or meter) across and maybe six inches (15 cm) deep but what a difference it makes! Can you imagine what finding a place like this meant to the pioneers. Today Nevada is claimed to be home to half of the countries population of wild horses and burros (about 15,000). Little canyons like these are where those animals can find the water to live. There are supposed to be wild horses and burros in the area and we did find some though I didn't photograph them. This area has some private residences including two small towns! We drove through one (Blue Diamond, NV) and saw some burros dining on someone's lawn. The population sign outside town said "Altitude High, Population Low, Burros ??". Cute little town but what a change it would be to work in a Las Vegas casino and live there!

Be careful out there, it's dangerous!

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