Thank you for your generous support during Friends’ participation in Nevada’s Big Give. Donations from 31 donors exceeded $2500 and we are so grateful for the belief in our mission to protect and enrich Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area!
Originally built in 1843 as a stopover for the wagon trains going to California along the Old Spanish Trail, Bonnie Springs Ranch lies in the heart Nevada’s iconic Red Rock Canyon. Only a half hour from the Las Vegas Strip, Bonnie Springs serves the desert community as a reprieve from the bustle of the city and recalls the West’s quieter, scenic past.
In 1846, General Fremont (en route to California) stopped at what is now Bonnie Springs Ranch to gear up for his trip through Death Valley and established the site’s significance. It was not until 1952, under the provision of Bonnie McGaugh and Al Levinson, that the ranch saw substantial renovation and resuscitation before opening to the public as a tourist attraction in 1958. Stables, a petting zoo, and a restaurant soon followed, and construction on Old Town, a reproduction of an 1880s mining community and the prime attraction at Bonnie Springs, opened in 1974 with the complement of a functioning saloon, shops, a wax museum, a wedding chapel, a replica schoolhouse, and daily performances/reenactments honoring the Old West. The ranch subsequently added a full-sized event arena, now the first site visitors see upon entering the property, that has hosted numerous rodeos and equestrian events. Today the grounds represent a delight for locals and tourists alike (as well as a few filmmakers).
Often called “an oasis in the desert” where you can stop for a cool drink of spring water, Bonnie Springs commits to servicing the Las Vegas area and remains the only opportunity for travelers seeking lodging, dining, and gambling in Red Rock Canyon. Our fine dinner house and quaint cocktail lounge ensure that all our guests stay comfortable, while our motel offers standard suites, larger rooms with full fireplaces, and themed rooms with Jacuzzi tubs.
We have a wide variety of animals, both native and non-native, for you to see in our zoo including our beautiful wolves and even Australian emus and wallabies. Access is included with admission to Old Town.
We also maintain on the grounds a large stable of horses for your riding pleasure and offer pony rides for the kids. Visitors can embark upon guided trail rides, group rides, and even horseback weddings for the adventurous.
As Red Rock Canyon’s “best kept secret”, Bonnie Springs Ranch remains an establishment and recreation area committed to serving visitors from all over the world (or just a car ride away). Additionally, the site serves as part of our western museum project to preserve the memory and aesthetics of a bygone era.
The World Famous Bonnie Springs Ranch Restaurant and Bar is known to be the best food and fun in the Red Rock Canyon area…and that is not just because it is the only restaurant and bar in Red Rock Canyon!
The Bonnie Springs Ranch Restaurant has been popular with locals and visitors alike since opening in 1964. The decor may be a bit quirky, but that is part of the charm that ties the ranch to Nevada’s Old West history. The food is fresh and delicious and our extensive menu offers simple traditional dishes to meet everyone’s dining tastes at every meal. From omelets and potato skins to Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches, hot pies, and our peerless burgers, the restaurant can accommodate any appetite. Our staff is awesome and everyone at our establishment cares about treating you and your family right.
The prime attraction and visitor center at Bonnie Springs Ranch, the Old Town contains all the facilities and conveniences necessary to enjoy a stay near Red Rock Canyon.
Phone: 702-875-4191 | facebook.com/bonniesprings LIKE US! | Text “bonniesprings” to 902
This year’s Red Rock Day event was hosted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and held on a beautiful spring day at the First Creek Trail within the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Forty-seven volunteers as well as eight staff members from the BLM, Southern Nevada Conservancy, and the Friends of Red Rock Canyon participated in Red Rock Day.
Volunteers formed into six teams and they successfully cleaned approximately 25 graffiti sites along the First Creek Trail. An additional team removed one mile of old cable and eight fence posts.
Morning snacks were provided by REI, and lunch by Friends of Red Rock Canyon. Southern Nevada Conservancy staff assisted with registration and lunch as well as staffing an Earth Day education table for volunteers and hikers.
Every year, Red Rock Canyon is the backdrop for a naturalization ceremony.
Friends of Red Rock Canyon are proud to participate in this very special event, hosting breakfast and helping the Bureau of Land Management as hosts.
This year, 73 immigrants from 27 nations became naturalized citizens. They come from Armenia, Australia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, Vietnam.
We share the day with this gallery of faces of new citizens and Friends’ volunteers.
Naturalization Fast Facts
- During the last decade, more than 6.5 million people were naturalized.
- To become a citizen, one must be at least 18 years of age; be a lawful permanent resident with a green card for at least five years; be a person of good moral character; speak, read and understand English; have knowledge of the U.S government and history; and take the Oath of Allegiance.
- 75 percent of naturalized citizens reside in 10 states – California, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, Massachusetts, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
- In a typical year, the top countries of origin for naturalization were in the following order: Mexico, India, the Philippines, Dominican Republic and China.
- The United States has the highest total number of immigrants, being home to 19 per cent of the world’s immigrants.
With the Calico Hills as a vivid backdrop, 73 immigrants from 27 nations became U.S. citizens, bringing enough beaming smiles to brighten an unusually grey and slightly rainy March Saturday morning.
“The United States is a grand melting pot, and we are all better off by sharing our cultures and experiences,” U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Gordon told the newest citizens moments after swearing them in before ecstatic families and friends.
“As a citizen, you have the right to criticize the government,” he explained. “You have the right to say that Congress should allocate more resources to protecting and making available great natural resources like this one (at Red Rock Canyon Conservation Area). You have the right to disagree with the President’s policies. You have the right to say that judges are too lenient or too severe in their sentences.
“But, you also have an obligation to do something about it. Don’t just criticize; get involved in the process and change what you don’t like.”
Read Judge Gordon’s full remarks. Click here.
That message resonated palpably with the new citizens, many coming from countries that suppress freedoms that U.S. citizens too often take for granted, noted Judge Gordon.
“Today, I leave the pain from my past,” Artak Malkhasyan from Armenia told his fellow new citizens. “Now I can talk freely,” he marveled, his voice rising in excitement. “It’s all about freedom of speech… Live the moment. You have no idea what influence you can have on one another now… how human kind can change the world.”
Throughout the ceremony, the power of place resonated as deeply as the ever-present Calico tones stretched behind an American flag where family after family posed with pride for photos to commemorate their personally historic passages.
“You are looking at one of the most visited sites in the nation,” said Catrina Williams, Red Rock’s field manager. “As citizens, they are your public lands.”
“Now, you too are stewards of Red Rock,” Tom Lisby, president of Friends of Red Rock Canyon, told the new citizens who come from Australia to Ethiopia, from Mexico to Vietnam. “They belong to your children and grandchildren and their grandchildren. Join us to care for this special place.”
Friends, with 600 members, co-hosted the naturalization ceremonies by offering each new citizen free membership while also providing breakfast and as a flag-festooned celebratory cake. Many volunteers from Friends were involved during the entire morning – from controlling traffic to helping move the event inside the visitor’s center as rain began falling a half hour before the scheduled swearing in.
“Excited.” “Nervous.” “Amazing.” “I can’t believe this is happening.” The new citizens repeated these phrases from the moment they arrived – some as early as 7 a.m. for the 10 o’clock ceremony.
Many talked emotionally about finally being able to join their own children, who were born in the United States, as fellow citizens.
Brittany Brooks, assistant field manager at Red Rock, found herself emotional as well, confessing to happy tears as she watched how family after family gathered in hugs, waved flags and often marveled at the hills beyond.
She commended all that Friends contributes to make the ceremony a possibility. “The ceremony couldn’t take place without Friends’ contributions and commitment,” said Brook
As the formal ceremony got underway, Wayne Leroy of the Southern Nevada Elks encouraged the new citizens to “keep that smile for the rest of your lives. The Elks distributed hand-held American flags to all the new citizens. “They are far more than cloth,” he told them. The red stripes represent the blood spilled by generations of patriots, the white represents the tears of those who lost loved ones in wars and the stars unify the 50 states.
As the sounds of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” blared across the visitor’s center, every new citizen in unison waved the flags from upraised arms while proudly clutching certificates attesting to their new status.
“I was exactly in your shoes in 2004,” U.S. Congressman Ruben Kihuen, whose family emigrated from Mexico, told the assemblage. “My parents wanted a piece of the land of opportunity… They came with less than a hundred dollars in their pockets and no job or place to live.”
And now their son is serving in the U.S. Congress, he said. “Let that sink in.”
U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez-Musto shared her story too. “We are all descendants of immigrants. “One of my grandfathers was from Italy and the other from Mexico. I think about that (every time) I walk into the Senate,” she said.
Red Rock was very much on Cortez-Musto’s mind as she spoke to the new citizens, sharing stories of hiking and camping when she was as young as five years old with her Mexican-American grandfather. “Now, the same Red Rock Canyon belongs to each of you,” she said.
Judge Gordon concluded the ceremonies connecting Red Rock to the lyrics of folk singer Woody Guthrie, who sang “This land is your land. This land is my land. From California to the New York Island.”
“As a citizen, this land trul now is your land.”
… there are those days that I get out of my car and I can smell the cliff rose and see the sun shine on the sandstone escarpment and realize that I am very blessed to come to work every day and experience the beauty that surrounds me.
So, what does Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Interpretive Ranger Kate Sorom do on her day
Take a two-and-a-half mile walk in the Calico Hills led by Friends’ President Tom Lisby, demonstrating that Red Rock Canyon represents more than a job; it’s a passion.
A passion that she always wants to share with visitors – especially young people.
A Las Vegas native, Kate grew up as a ‘city kid,’ but one whose parents frequently took the family camping on Mount Charleston and at Beaver Dam State Park on the Nevada-Utah border. “I have always loved nature, and the idea of being a park ranger began when I was very little,” she
She entered the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as an education major, thinking she would become a teacher. “But, I really wanted to be outside and teach in a different way. I just didn’t know how to go about it at the time.”
After getting married, Kate and her husband packed up for Reno where she graduated from the University of Nevada with a degree in Natural Resource Science, focusing on forestry and range management.
“Trees and cows,” she jokes.
“Growing up in Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon was always a place I thought would be neat to work at. In high school, I went to the new Visitor’s Center to talk with a Bureau of Land Management official. “How can I work here?” I asked her. Ten years later, that same official became Kate’s boss.
During those intervening 10 years, Kate worked summers at Nevada state parks as a seasonal aide. “This was a good start to becoming a Park Ranger, learning people skills, meeting
visitors from all over the world.”
After graduation, she returned to Las Vegas and worked with the Red Rock Canyon Interpretative
Association, now part of the Southern Nevada Conservancy. Two years later, Kate was hired for a permanent part-time position by BLM.
“Being an interpretative ranger is being a “Jack of all trades and master of none,” she explains.
‘I meet people from all over the world and get to introduce them to my Mojave Desert home – and
specifically Red Rock Canyon.
“I get to do this by having general conversations, setting up interpretive table tops with hands-on
items and information, leading guided hikes and presenting at community events.”
Her favorite role is as Environmental Education Facilitator, arranging school field trips and
teacher workshops. “During the last school year, Red Rock Canyon hosted 190 field trips for 9,658
students and 10 workshops for 177 teachers,” she noted.
There are two field trip opportunities in Red Rock Canyon. One is led by rangers and the other
by teachers, who guide students on one of four recommended trails for a nature walk and place-based learning activities, explained Kate.
Ranger-led trips are based on student grade levels and are tied directly with their school curricula
to help teachers meet their classroom requirements. “We try to be a tool in their toolbox to help
teachers meet their educational goals for their students,” said Kate.
“Another program I facilitate is the Naturalist Educator volunteer opportunity. This program
trains assistant hike leaders, tabletop interpreters and hike leaders. There are a number of requirements for each of the positions, the most popular being the assistant hike leader.” she explained.
“A good number of students who come to Red Rock Canyon on field trips have never been here
before. This is a new experience for them, and sometimes new experiences can be scary and exciting at the same time.
“Some are experiencing the landscape of Red Rock Canyon, the flora and fauna, for the first
time. They are learning that as visitors you need to be on your best behavior as you would be when
others come to their homes. That’s because this is the home of rabbits, lizards, birds, flowers and
“Many time students say they will come back to visit with their parents or siblings, and we hope
that they do. But mostly, we have planted a seed; and hopefully it grows, molding that student into
a good steward as an adult and a caretaker of our public lands,” said Kate.
As a naturalist and interpreter, Kate often works with Friends of Red Rock Canyon through its
generous transportation grant program that she emphasizes has “contributed greatly” to getting students here.
“Many schools cannot afford or budget even minimal off-site field trips, leaving teachers to find
alternate ways to get students out to experience the areas in which they live. Many students and
their families don’t travel far from “civilization”because they may not have the means to do so,”
“Public transportation does not extend past city limits, leaving much of the public land areas such
as Red Rock Canyon out of reach for them to experience on their own. But, Friends of Red Rock
approved funding for 60 buses during the last school year. That’s almost a third of the number
of field trips that came out. Without that funding,these students would not have had the opportunity to experience Red Rock Canyon.”
Kate has had some kind of relationship with Friends since she started working at Red Rock
Canyon 23 years ago.
“The organization and its volunteers have always been willing to help when needed. As all the
Friends know, our common mission is to preserve, conserve and protect the canyon for current
and future generations; not only the human kind, but also the critter and flowery kind” she said.
“Friends of Red Rock Canyon as an organization and its members make that happen every day and I am so grateful for what they do directly for me and for the entire conservation area.”
Finding resources always is a challenge, especially in an era of budget constraints, but one program
– Every Kid in a Park, launched in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Interior, has allowed Kate
to increase outreach especially to fourth graders.
The program allows them and their parents to visit public lands without paying a fee.
“I have been able to go into the schools and share information on our Nevada State mammal,
the Desert Bighorn Sheep.
One such visit inspired the 4th grade class at Garehime Elementary to make a proposal to a Las Vegas City Councilman that Las Vegas have its own city animal. These fourth graders, soon to be fifth graders, will make their proposal to the Las Vegas City Council in September. “
Through the program, Red Rock Canyon and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Areas have
issued more than 8,000 free passes. That presents more than 20 percent of Clark County School
District’s fourth-grade population.
“Many days, I take working at Red Rock Canyon for granted, I think about what I have to do
for the day, how much I need to get done,” Kate confesses. “But then, there are those days that I get
out of my car and I can smell the cliff rose and see the sun shine on the sandstone escarpment and realize that I am very blessed to come to work every day and experience the beauty that surrounds me.
“The day is always better at Red Rock Canyon.”
Even on a particular Sunday when she is officially off work, but volunteering as Tom Lisby’s assistant trail leader, sharing the Calico Hills with a new group of amazed visitors.