Valley of Fire State Park is located under an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, Nevada. I’ve been to Las Vegas at least half a dozen times, and I never knew a place like this existed so close to the glitz and glam of The Strip. As I get older, I appreciate the natural beauty and wonder of a park like this over the pretentiousness that is Las Vegas.
The 40,000 acre park has miles of trails, as well as picnic and camping areas. It’s also home to a diverse set of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered reptiles and mammals.
1-2: We were lucky enough to spot a small herd of desert bighorn sheep. This species of sheep is considered endangered. In the 1800s, the population is thought to have been 500,000 strong, but current estimates put the population at about 20,000. [src]
3-5: Scattered around the park are petroglyphs thought to be at least 2000 years old. They were left by the former residents of the area, the Anasazi Indians.
6: Arch Rock is a natural arch carved out of the sandstone over thousands of years of wind an rain. Enjoy it while you can, because collapse is inevitable. [src]
7: From a distance on the opposite side of the road, the entire structure below the arch resembles a wrecked spaceship.
8: Near the entrance to the park, there are a group of structures shaped like beehives.
9-10: Layers and layers of sand are glued together by pressure and minerals over thousands of years. There are areas where the layers are quite pronounced, and several meters high.
11: There must be an explanation for the deep gouges in this sandstone, but it looks like it was attacked by a samurai sword.
12: What about this sandstone boulder? It’s layered, but at the same time it has what appears to be more sandstone dripping down the sides, like icing drizzled over a cake. I’m guessing this was formed by the rains.
13: Besides sandstone formations, there’s also formations of limestone such as this one. I’m actually about 30 feet up at this point, and the distant rocks are across a fairly wide chasm.
14-16: The rock can take on bizarre shapes. I’m confident a trained geologist could identify the cause for each one. To my untrained eye, this just looks like an alien landscape. The film Total Recall (1990) was filmed here to approximate the look of the planet Mars. [src]
17: This rock outcropping stands alone, as if it was just violently thrust from the earth.
18-20: Some panoramas I shot. The last one is of Seven Sisters, which are 7 towers of sandstone. You can picnic here, and there was actually a wedding taking place when we visited.