Valley of Fire is Nevada's oldest and largest state park, dedicated in 1935. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park by areas of petrified wood and 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs. Popular activities include camping, hiking, picnicking and photography. The park offers a full-scale visitor center with extensive interpretive displays. Several group use areas are also available. The park is open all year. Valley of Fire State Park is six miles from Lake Mead and 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas via Interstate 15 and on exit 75.
The Valley of Fire derives its name from red sandstone formations, formed from great shifting sand dunes during the age of dinosaurs, 150 million years ago. Complex uplifting and faulting of the region, followed by extensive erosion, have created the present landscape.
Other important rock formations include limestone, shale, and conglomerates. Prehistoric users of the Valley of Fire included the Basket Maker people and later the Anasazi Pueblo farmers from the nearby fertile Moapa Valley.
The span of approximate occupation has been dated from 300 B.C.E. to 1150 C.E. Their visits probably involved hunting, food gathering, and religious ceremonies, although scarcity of water would have limited the length of their stay. Fine examples of rock art left by these ancient peoples can be found at several sites within the park.
Winters are mild with temperatures ranging from freezing to 75 degrees. Daily summer highs usually exceed 100 degrees F and may reach 120 degrees. Summer temperatures can vary widely from day to night. Average annual rainfall is four inches, coming in the form of light winter showers and summer thunderstorms. Spring and fall are the preferred seasons for visiting the Valley of Fire.
The area plant community is dominated by widely spaced creosote bush, burro bush, and brittlebush. Several cactus species, including beaver tail and cholla, are also common. The springtime bloom of such plants as the desert marigold, indigo bush, and desert mallow are often spectacular along park roads.
Resident birds include the raven, house finch, sage sparrow, and roadrunner. Many migrant birds also pass through the park. Most desert animals are nocturnal and not frequently seen by the passing motorist. Many species of lizards and snakes are common in the park, as well as the coyote, kit fox, spotted skunk, black tailed jackrabbit, and antelope ground squirrel.
The desert tortoise is a rare species and is protected by state law. If you are lucky enough to come across one please leave this likeable and harmless creature to live its life in peace in its own environment.