Nevada Commission on TourismRed Rock Canyon offers formations in every breathtaking hue found under the sun.
Length: About 360 miles.
When to go: Popular year-round.
Words to the wise: Information on
hiking and camping is available at the Bureau
of Land Management in Caliente. Ranger-led
tours of Great Basin National Park are
given only in summer.
Nearby attractions: Las Vegas. Ward
Charcoal Ovens St ate Historic Site, near Ely.
Further information: Nevada Commission on Tourism, 401 N. Carson St., Carson
City, NV 89710; tel. 800-638-2328,
Far off the beaten path, this desert
drive embraces a host of unexpected
treasures. Beginning with the
watery playground at Lake Mead, it
winds past eroded rock formations,
multihued canyons, and old mining
towns and ends with ancient trees
that grow near a glacier.
1. Lake Mead National
For millions of years, the 1,400-mile-long Colorado River snaked
its way untrammeled from the
Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of
California. To tame the river and
create what was once the world’s
largest reservoir took nothing less
than the construction of the dam
that, at its completion in 1935,
ranked as the world’s largest.
The Herculean task of building
Hoover Dam took 18 months of
excavation and tunneling to divert
the river, 24 months to block the
canyon with nearly 7 million tons
of concrete, and up to 5,000 workers
on the job around the clock.
Statistics are one thing, but
seeing is believing. The guided
tour, which begins at the Hoover
Dam visitor center, allows visitors
to appreciate the combined efforts
of thousands of workers that was
required to construct the 528-foot
dam one sees today.
The crystalline waters of 110-mile-long Lake Mead — the vast
reservoir that was created by the
dam — are a mecca for swimmers,
boaters, windsurfers, divers, anglers,
and sightseers. As large as it
is, though, the lake is just a small
part of the 1.5-million-acre recreation
area that surrounds the Colorado
River as it flows from the
show-stopping Grand Canyon all
the way south through the seared
desert surrounding Lake Mojave.
2. Valley of Fire State Park
Like a fanciful mirage, the many
peaks, spires, and pillars in Nevada’s
largest state park shimmer in
jewel-toned hues. Wind and water
over the course of millions of years
sculpted the landscape here into a
masterpiece of haunting beauty.
Interpretive trails lead visitors past
raspy red rocks where desert tortoises
linger in cool recesses and
beside smooth cliff faces where, a
thousand years ago, Anasazi artists
etched mysterious petroglyphs .
North toward Overton, the Lost
City Museum holds yet more remnants
of the long-vanished Anasazi
civilization that flourished in the
region until A.D. 1200.
3. Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge
The desert stretches long and
lonely as Rte. 93 runs north between
the gaunt hills of the Sheep
Range to the west and the sunbaked
Delamar Mountains to the
east. But underground water, in
true oasis fashion, feeds Lower
Pahranagat Lake and, 4 1/2 miles
beyond, Upper Pahranagat Lake.
Lush meadowlands and stands of
cottonwoods crowd the narrow
valley, which serves as a stop for
migrating waterfowl and a nesting
area for great blue herons, swans,
and dozens of smaller species.