The word ‘Vegas” for me went hand-hand with bright lights, the Bellagio Fountain and yes “Thunder from Down Under, the spirited male review team from Australia!
A few weeks ago, a climbing adventure with friends exposed me to a whole new side of Vegas. Well known to seasoned climbers as Red Rock Canyon, about 15 miles West of Vegas are bright Red Sandstone mountains and rocks offering up a wealth of adventure activities.
Image that doesn’t do justice – beautiful landscapes riddled with Joshua trees and red rocks in the horizon
Visited by over 2 million people every year, the roughly 3000 feet tall red sandstone canyons are marked as a National Conservation Area (NCA). What does that mean? NCA areas are nature conservation areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Black Rock Desert, a popular destination for The Burning Man, is one other NCA. Interestingly Red Rock Canyon has been rumored to be the next destination for this rendezvous!
What’s the Technical Difference Between a National Park and a National Conservation Area?
Americans inherited 623 million acres of land which came in four varieties:
Image to the left: At the Black Corridor Crag at Red Rock
We noticed parts of Red Rock Canyon's neighboring areas were marked as Wilderness points.
These areas then belong to not only, say, Yosemite National Park but to the National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS), as well. What difference does it make? If land inside Yosemite becomes a wilderness area, it must remain free of roads and structures. The gorgeous colors?
Millions of years ago Red Rock was under an ocean basin and limey deposits resulted in limestone sediments – now still seen as limestone rocks around the canyon. Oxidation of the iron minerals in the rocks resulted in the red formations. Years of streams and water flows then gave the rocks those crevices and holds for adventure sports!
A bit north of Red Rock are the Limestone formations at Mt. Charleston. At 7-8,000 feet elevation, the temperatures here tend to be up to 20 degrees lower than the hot red rock valley. Offering up cooler conditions for climbers and hikers in the summer time, there are several cave formations of hard limestone that make for a very different climbing experience.
Also, Mt.Charleston, happens to be an "Unincorporated Town" of Nevada which means they are provided extra services by the county, paid for by property taxes or other revenue sources from the town. Apparently a rich tourist destination!
My buddies belaying and climbing the limestone formations at Mt. Charleston
The caves at Mt. Charleston
15 miles West of Vegas was a whole new experience…Not So Vegas!