White Rock of Red Rock

Not everything in Red Rock Canyon just west of Las Vegas is red.  In fact, much of it is not red.  Some sandstone seems to have had little iron in it, so there are whites, yellows, and pinks and many other shades.  And there is also the grey of the overlying and in some places dominating limestone.

So where are we this time?  If you remember where we were last week and the week before, on the west side of a north-south ridge of very red rock and then on the east side of it [see links at bottom of page], well, this time we are on the far northwestern end of the canyon and can look eastward to the red-rock ridge where we were the previous two weeks:

Let's look in that direction again, and if you look on the ground you can see that the description of this side of the canyon as white is a bit exaggerated:

How did we get here?  There is a road, visible in the next photo, that is called the Red Rock Loop, about 14 miles of one-way road with many hiking trails along the way.  It is a popular and very busy place in nice weather.

That's enough looking east.  If we look north instead in the rather narrow tributary canyon we are now in,  we see La Madre mountain, a terrible climb I am told by people who climb a lot in this area--no trail and you have to scramble up and down some very steep slopes (I have not done this hike, but here is a link to someone who has, and whose story made it on the local news [as long as this newslink lasts, if it goes away as all news stories eventually do, here is his home page on La Madre (and on MANY other hikes!]).  My view of La Madre is from a low and very safe place:

Now you can see the white rock of this area, sandstone with less iron in it so as to not give it a red hue (anemic sandstone?  yes, I suppose so).

There was a nearly full moon out:

And now let's finally turn around and see where all these pictures are being taken from, the wall that forms the northwest boundary of Red Rock Canyon:

Notice all the areas that are almost black?  On the opposite wall they were more brown, but on this wall, away from the sun, this "desert varnish" is really well developed.  It comes from water penetrating the rock and then evaporating back out, very slowly, and leaving its very tiny amounts of dissolved managanese, and other metals, on the surface as it dries.  Ancient Native Americans sent each other messages by scraping into this black veneer and letting the white rock beneath it shine through:

What does it all mean?  I have no clue, the pros say it indicated they found water and game here, and since all things in their world were sacred there is an interspersion of religious themes as well.  But who really knows for sure today?

Taking a few steps back lets us get a better view of some of the remarkably contrasts in color in this wall, supposedly from different trace metal content combined with different exposure histories?

The vegetation at the base of these cliffs is surprisingly dense, scrub oak, Mormon tea and manzanita were mixed with pines and junipers and plucks of grasses to give a nice range of green things.  Here is some Mormon tea in the foreground with manazanita:

A manzanita thicket in this phot, followed by a photo of a scrub oak with cacti (I brushed againt a cactus with some type of fruiting bodies on its edges and had to stop to pull hundreds of tiny quills out of my leg, ouch!):

But here is my favorite oak on this side, it actually has a trail running under it (see the white narrow vertical sign under the tree saying behind this pole is wilderness?):

In the stream bed there are usually nice rocks to be looked at, here are several:

As perhaps you can tell from the light in some of these photos, is was getting near dusk, which is when the canyon closes, so we had to go.  But rest assured, we will be back, and we will take you along on our next tiny adventure.

We will leave you with two more views of the base of the cliffs we have been walking beneath.  The little water that falls here runs off, mostly, to give life to lots of plants that in turn support animals, including the human animal seeking just recreation now, but also food in ancient to relatively modern times:  agave pits in this area show that things being roasted for food included many plants and animals native to the area: with rabbits and bighorn sheep the dominant food species. (Being a vegetarian I was more impressed with the plants being eaten, in very small quantities, I realize this is not a place where a vegetarian could thrive just on native plants).

Go to Previous February Red Rock Pages

If you want to see more of Red Rock, here is a previous hike I took

Also, a flyover in a commercial airliner coming from the Bay Area to Las Vegas.

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