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Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex

The Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex consists of four related areas within two hours of LV. The Moapa Valley NWR is not currently open to the public. You can see information about the other three below.


Hedgehog Cactus - Corn Creek Field Station

Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge features eroded hills full of cave-like branching slots. Fun to explore; rewarding to try to photograph from inside. This Nevada state park has a pleasant campground with amenities that include hot showers. About 2.7 hours from Las Vegas.

Cathedral George State Park, NV
Cathedral Gorge

Michael Heizer's Double Negative

Michael Heizer's 1969-70 land art piece Double Negative is cut into the edge of Mormon Mesa overlooking the scenic Virgin River valley. Hard to photograph, I found it to be an "interactive" piece that one needs to walk around, climb down into, view at both sunrise and sunset, etc. to appreciate its variations, scale, and bravado. Tried to see Heizer's even more monumental City, also in the region, but Heizer has deliberately made it inaccessible, pending completion, with a gated road and obscuring berms.

Double Negative, rim shot  Double Negative, inside shot  Double Negative, sky shot
Michael Heizer's Double Negative

Buffington Pockets

Buffington Pockets shares the features of Valley of Fire: twisted red rocks and ancient petroglyths. Valley of Fire is a state park accessible by car while Buffington Pockets is a power toy playground requiring 4WD, so check out Valley of Fire, first. If you are in the Buffington area (Moapa Valley), check out the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge, a warm springs oasis home to the endangered Moapa Dace.

Red rocks and sands of Buffington Pockets, NV
Buffington Pockets

Great Unconformity Interpretive Site

Great Unconformity Interpretive Site is marked by an unimproved dirt parking lot along the south side of E. Lake Mead Blvd (NV 147). The path is badly littered, the interpretative geology signs are vandalized, and the smog makes for challenging photography, but maybe worth the 1/4 mi. hike up for the view if you're heading east early in the morning.

Sunrise view of Las Vegas, Nevada, from Frenchman Mountain
Las Vegas from Fenchman Mountain

White Rock Canyon

White Rock Canyon, a moderate hike to the Colorado River south of Hoover Dam, is also the land access to Arizona Hot Springs.

Colorado River at the Mouth of White Rock Canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona
Colorado River at the Mouth of White Rock Canyon

Arizona Hot Springs

The mouth of Arizona Hot Springs canyon is a short but obscure hike southward along the Colorado River from the mouth of White Rock Canyon. (Boaters have a sandy beach right at the mouth of the Springs canyon.) The hike up canyon is also short, but more physically challenging. You'll get wetter, but warmer, as you proceed to the hot pools.

Water chute in Arizona Hot Springs canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona  Waterfall ladder in Arizona Hot Springs canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona  Hot pools in Arizona Hot Springs canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona
Arizona Hot Springs: Scramble the Chute, Climb the Ladder, Soak the Pools

Grapevine Canyon

The mouth of Grapevine Canyon, a dirt road drive from the highway and a short hike in, contains the densest petroglyth panels I have seen.

Native American petroglyths at Grapevine Canyon, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada
Petroglyths at Grapevine Canyon

Unsustainable Behavior

Unsustainable Behavior

Endangered desert tortoise exhibits unsustainable behavior in Mojave National Preserve.

Mojave National Preserve

Mojave National Preserve, about 1.5 hours southwest of LV, features a rich variety of desert environments. Paved and bladed roads make much of the hiking, camping, sightseeing, and wildlife accessible without an SUV. At this time of year, I found the desert in bloom, the Joshua trees in flower, and the desert tortoises active.

Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve, California
Kelso Dunes


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