We have always had a goal of visiting each of the fifty states. As this, our fiftieth year of marriage began, we set our sights on reaching that goal, visiting the two states we had not yet seen. In April we flew to Nevada to check off state #49. I was not particularly excited…my knowledge of Nevada was limited, and when thinking about Nevada, the mental connections I made were desert, Las Vegas, and gambling.
But then we took a tour of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and my mind’s eye view of Nevada will never be the same.
Millions of years ago, the land that is now Red Rock Canyon laid under a deep ocean. When this ocean receded it left behind deposits of shells and the skeletons of ocean life that lay up to 9,000 feet thick. These deposits, when compressed, formed into limestone and other carbonate rocks.
Over subsequent millions of years, the land changed again and again. At one point, movement deep within the Earth caused the sea bed to rise. Mud and sand entered from streams draining into the landscape and eventually became compressed into shale and sandstone.
By 180 million years ago, the area became the arid desert we know today. Red Rock Canyon is in the Mojave Desert, the driest desert in North America. The dunes that stretched across the area blew and blew, they shifted, then shifted again. The dunes grew and they receded, and over time, they formed lines, “crossbeds” which were cemented together by new sediments, fusing them forever. Iron present in the sandstone is what gives the rock in the canyon its red color.
And then, finally, about 65 million years ago, there was a dramatic uplift, the Keystone Thrust Fault, from deep within the Earth’s crust. This caused the oldest rock in the crust, the gray limestone carbonate rocks to push up and above the younger sandstone.
To take a look at Red Rock Canyon, we took a jeep tour with a knowledgeable and passionate guide. He took us all around the canyon and answered any and every question we had. If you ever find your way to Las Vegas, look up Pink Jeep for some of the very best tours available anywhere.
One of my favorite places in the canyon is that place where you can see real evidence of Native American life and activity from centuries long past. We spent a bit of time in this area, enjoying the beauty of the place, as well as discussing the lives of the people who, at one time, called this place home. Hunter-gatherers were the first to inhabit the area, with the most recent occupations being of the Paiute and Anasazi people.
These petroglyphs on the red sandstone are evidence of a people who wished to leave evidence of their having been here, their having been part of the story of mankind…
The rock formations in this area are absolutely amazing…
There is evidence at several places of fire pits that were used by the Native Americans. Today those fire pits are home to many desert plants.
I love the flora of any landscape, and Red Rock Canyon was no exception. The canyon is filled with beautiful wildflowers, trees, and bushes. Here are my favorites…
The most impressive was this very old, lone Juniper Tree…
So, if you ever find yourself thinking about a trip to the American southwest, and you are not a city person, or a gambler; you would describe yourself more a nature lover, an adventurer, don’t count Las Vegas out. Once outside town, and its hotels where you can spend your nights. there is so much more to the area than casinos and glitzy shows. I am so glad we found ourselves in Nevada!
After returning home, I found this recipe, and tweaked it a bit, to help us remember the time we spent at Red Rock Canyon. Fry Bread was a typical bread made by Native American women…and these bread tacos are delicious, and we think much more filling than typical tacos.
Indian Fry Bread Tacos
Fun and filling way to make tacos.
For the Bread
- 2 cups flour
- 3/4 tsp.salt
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup warm water
- Mix the dry ingredients and add warm water. Work with hands until dough forms and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Break dough off to a bit larger than the size of a golf ball.
- Roll dough into 6 inch circles.
- Fry each piece in 2 inches of hot oil in a medium saucepan. When the dough is golden and poofed up, turn the bread and fry on the other side. Drain on a paper towel.
For the Topping
- 1 pound of ground beef or ground bison
- 1 pkg. Taco seasoning
- 1/2 of a 15 oz. can of refried beans
- 2/3 cup water, you may add a bit more if you like.
- shredded lettuce
- diced tomatoes
- sour cream
- Brown ground meat.
- Add package of taco seasoning and the water.
- Stir in the refried beans.
- To assemble the taco. place some of the meat mixture on top of a fry bread, then top with lettuce, tomatoes, and a dollop of sour cream.