I thought two posts would cover our stop at this gem in Nevada, but there’s so much breathtaking beauty here that I had to cover some of it in more detail. I promise this is my final post on Valley of Fire!
After taking the scenic drive and hiking around the area, we revisited the valley (pictured above) at sunrise and again at sunset to further immerse ourselves in details of the formations. We wanted to answer some questions, like how did all of these colors and textures come about?
We knew from past experience that the presence of iron gives rocks that red hue in the soil and mountains. Tumultuous earth events over millions of years, plus the handiwork of wind and water erosion over time have left us with the incredible vistas here.
Geologic forces and erosion in other places we’ve visited have left landforms that took our breath away. But the forces that created Valley of Fire are concentrated in a relatively small land area when compared to places like the Pictured Rocks in Upper Michigan, Painted Desert in Arizona, Artist Pallete at Death Valley or the badlands in North Dakota and South Dakota. The colorful array of rocks, swirls, patterns and folds are always extraordinary, but this place was really top notch!
As usual, my photos can’t do justice to what we saw, and be forewarned that this will be a rocky post!
These photos were taken at Wash #5, the 5th dip on the scenic drive. If you don’t want to leave your car in the wash, park at Lot #3 and cross the road to follow the Firewall Trail. Then prepare to be awestruck!
Our question as to why there are such color differences in the rocks was answered by a visitor center display. It advised that the Aztec sandstone does indeed derive its characteristic red color from iron oxide in the rock. How the iron got into the various layers is a subject of debate among geologists. Some theorize it leached downward through the porous sandstone through overlying rock. But others note that some areas in the upper layers are white and do not contain iron oxide. This suggests that the rocks have actually been stained from the bottom up by water circulating minerals from the iron-rich layers beneath. Whichever is true, the result is gorgeous!
Back I went at the end of the day to have another look around. First I went out onto the Fire Canyon Trail to check it out. We had not followed this short trail because we’re not crazy about hiking in deep sand. But what caught my attention here were the desert plants that seemed to glow in the sun’s reflection as it bounced off the red rocks.
From there I drove back to the scenic road and stopped at Lot #2 for a walk down the hill. The sun was low and the rocks were aglow! I named this area the Peachy Swirl Sundae or Orange Sundae. I was happy to be all alone, and so giddy that I didn’t know which way to point my camera! Sure enough, the formations at this time of the day had been transformed into a dramatic and lively landscape.
This was such a stunning place that I eventually put my camera down and just sat there savoring the panorama until the sun dipped below the horizon. I was blown away!
And this is just the beginning of our adventures in the land of multi-colored rocks. Our next stop begins a 3-month adventure in the mother lode of vividly-colored rock formations – Utah!