Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

April 08, 2014


Photographer: Ray Boren
Summary Author: Ray Boren

Visitors from around the world are drawn like moths to the bright lights of Las Vegas and its glittering Strip: Nevada’s gambling and entertainment oasis. Only a comparative few of them probably even notice the rugged cream-to-vermilion cliffs 17 mi (27 km) to the west: Red Rock Canyon. As the photo above illustrates, the view goes both ways — some of the tall buildings and residential areas of Vegas can also be seen when looking east, over the colorful Calico Hills, a popular section of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Redrockvegas508Perhaps because it offers such a remarkable contrast to Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon draws about a million visitors each year. Here they can enjoy beautiful vistas, drop by a modern visitor center, tour a 13 mi (21 km) scenic loop, and enjoy many hiking trails, rock climbing and bike routes, and ponder the resilient plants and wildlife of the harsh Mojave Desert.

The Red Rock Canyon area exposes a deep geologic history, the Bureau of Land management notes. About 600 million years ago, the region was beneath an ancient sea, whose inhabitants left behind shells and skeletons that were compressed into limestone and similar rocks that are now showcased in dramatic cliffs. The seabed rose about 225 million years ago and mud and sand was deposited in shallower waters. Then, about 180 million years ago, the area was part of a vast desert larger even than today’s Sahara, with sand dunes stretching across present day Utah and into Colorado. Much of that primordial desert is now known as the Colorado Plateau, renowned for its many national parks, such as Zion, Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon — close relatives of Las Vegas’ Red Rock Canyon. Photographs taken on Feb. 21, 2014.

Photo details: Top - Camera Model: NIKON D3200; Lens: AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED; Focal Length: 165mm (35mm equivalent: 247mm); Aperture: f/6.3; Exposure Time: 0.0016 s (1/640); ISO equiv: 100; Exposure Bias: none; Software: iPhoto 9.5.1. Bottom - Same except: Lens: AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G; Focal Length: 48mm (35mm equivalent: 72mm); Aperture: f/8.0; Exposure Time: 0.0040 s (1/250).