Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area fee free September 28

The Bureau of Land Management will waive amenity-related fees at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for National Public Lands Day on September 28. Other fees, such as camping and group day use, will remain in effect. 

Visitation is expected to be heavy, with the most congested time anticipated between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. There is also limited mobile phone service at Red Rock Canyon NCA, so please keep this in mind when using ride-sharing services – you may not have coverage to hail a ride back.

Red Rock Canyon was designated as Nevada’s first national conservation area. It is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. The area includes a LEED certified visitor center, 13-Mile Scenic Drive, miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and the Red Spring Interpretive Boardwalk. More information about the NCA is available at https://www.blm.gov/red-rock-canyon-nca.

Red Rock Canyon Campground Reopens August 30

LAS VEGAS – Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area’s developed campground will reopen Friday, August 30, in time for the beginning of its busiest camping season. Cooler temperatures during the fall and winter months make Red Rock Canyon a destination for visitors from around the world.

Red Rock Campground is located within Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, approximately two miles east of the Visitor Center on State Route 159 (West Charleston Boulevard). It is the only developed campground within the Conservation Area.  The campground features 53 individual campsites, 14 walk-to sites, six dry RV sites and seven group campsites.

Individual sites are $20 per site/night and can be reserved at www.recreation.gov.

The 14 walk-up campsites are offered on a first-come first-served basis and are $10 per night.

Group campsites are $60 per site/night and require reservations.Reservations for group campsites can be made by visiting www.recreation.gov.

The campground is scheduled to remain open until June 1, 2020, and will then close for the low-usage summer season.

Backcountry camping is allowed within Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area above 5,000 feet in the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness, and above 6,500 feet in the La Madre Mountain Wilderness. A permit is required and can be obtained by calling: 702-515-5050.

Camping is also allowed on BLM managed public land outside of the Las Vegas Valley for up to two weeks without charge. Popular primitive (no facilities) sites include Bitter Spring Back Country Byway, Gold Butte Back Country Byway, Knob Hill, Virgin Mountains, Christmas Tree Pass and Logandale Trails System.

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area fee free June 8

The Bureau of Land Management will waive amenity-related fees at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for National Get Outdoors Day on June 8. Other fees, such as group day use, will remain in effect.

Visitation is expected to be heavy, with the most congested time anticipated between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. There is also limited mobile phone service at Red Rock Canyon NCA, so please keep this in mind when using ride-sharing services – you may not have coverage to hail a ride back.

Red Rock Canyon was designated as Nevada’s first national conservation area. It is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. The area includes a LEED certified visitor center, 13-Mile Scenic Drive, miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking, picnic areas, nature observing and the Red Spring Interpretive Boardwalk. More information about the NCA is available at  https://www.blm.gov/red-rock-canyon-nca.

Tortoise Feeding and Soaking Days

Each spring the Red Rock Stars emerge from brumation (like hibernation for reptiles) on different days, depending on how warm the weather has been. This year Hugo was the first to come out, on March 1!

Hugo sleepily basking to warm himself.

A couple weeks after emergence, Friends of Red Rock Canyon volunteers begin feeding the tortoises each Wednesday and Saturday at 8 a.m. When the weather is cooler the torts’ metabolisms are slower, so they don’t eat as much or as quickly as when the weather is hot. Because of this, in the spring and fall they might slowly eat their breakfasts over the course of a couple hours. During the summer, however, they are often waiting for volunteers right at 8, and gobble up their food quickly!

Betty knows how to enjoy herself!

As with feeding, soaking days – or “spa days” as we call them – begin a couple weeks after emergence from brumation. On Mondays volunteers soak the torts for about 20 minutes in a couple inches of water. Soaking helps to keep the torts hydrated, and to clean their shells so volunteers can more easily identify them. The soaking schedule alternates so that Hugo gets soaked one Monday, then Max and the girls get soaked the following Monday.

Two of the girls getting squeaky-clean.

If you want to see the Rock Stars in action, make sure to visit them on these mornings from mid-May to late September. You can check our calendar for specific dates: https://friendsredrock.org/current-events/

New Hours at Red Rock

The 13-mile Scenic Drive at Red Rock Canyon will be open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting March 1. This change happens yearly as days become longer and sunset is later in the day. The Visitor Center will continue to be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Red Rock Canyon was designated as Nevada’s first national conservation area. It is located 17 miles west of the Las Vegas Strip on Charleston Boulevard/State Route 159. The area includes a LEED-certified visitor center, 13-Mile Scenic Drive, miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, road biking and nature observing. More information about the NCA is available at https://www.blm.gov/red-rock-canyon-nca

Pine Creek Canyon Memories

The first few times my family and I hiked the Pine Creek Canyon trail, the only water we saw was in the cattail-lined,, deep, green pool near the metal picnic table off the Fire Ecology trail.

And then one February afternoon as the weather started to warm, I took the kids and dog out to Pine Creek after school. As we hiked along the trail heading toward the old homestead, I noticed an unidentifiable loud whooshing sound.

At first I thought it must be a strong wind approaching from our left,. Bbut the wind never arrived. Then I realized that the sound wasn’t getting louder or quieter, but seemed to follow us as we headed through the pines, toward the canyon.

We wondered if it could be water – it almost sounded like a waterfall. The kids and I decided to investigate and began to bushwhack  make our way through the scrub bushes and stick-branches of the trees toward the sound. And then suddenly there it was: a rushing torrent of water, racing over the rocks and weeds, through the bushes and trees .

The stream reminded me of the clear, rushing creeks up in the mountains of North Carolina. It was unlike anything else we’d seen in Red Rock – or anywhere nearby. I couldn’t believe this was here, in the desert. We started to hike up the creek, mesmerized by what we had found.

About a quarter of a mile upstream, the water flattened out, and became much wider, covering the roots of trees, so that many of them looked like they were growing up out of the water.

The kids played there for a while, stepping gingerly from rock to rock, and walking across the trunk of a fallen tree. When we left Pine Creek that day, I felt like we had discovered gold. I was so happy to find that one of the things I missed the most about the east coast was actually here after all… (albeit temporary).

The next February we returned: once with just my son and our dog, filming a “short” about a magic pebble in the creek; (and stayed for three hours while he filmed a “short” about a magic pebble in a creek), twice with neighbors to walk along the creek;, once after it snowed;, and then again in March, when it started to hail.

This summer while back east, I got a text from a friend that Pine Creek was burning. and I worried about the trees that lined our favorite creek., bBut then I remembered the Ecology Fire trail loop (where the Bureau of Land Management conducted a prescribed burn in 1992 to clear the flammable brush that could otherwise have enabled tree-destroying wildfires), and wondered if it might have been a good thing. Twenty acres burned and took two days to extinguish.

I’ve been out to the trail since the fire, and didn’t see any damage. Apparently the June 22 fire was closer to Dale’s trail, just north of Pine Creek. It’s good to know the pine trees are still there.

I can’t wait until February.

A new chapter for Bonnie Springs Ranch

The Clark County Commissioners have approved a plan to build 20 homes spanning 64 acres on the site of Bonnie Springs Ranch, the replica Old West town.

 

As kids and buddies, Joel Laub and Randall Jones fell in love with Red Rock Canyon, exploring it with youthful exuberance and unabated wonder.

Since then, Red Rock has been part of their family’s scrapbook and ethos across three generations. Now, they hope to make it part of their legacy.

If all the pieces fall in place, Laub, one of the valley’s most prominent developers, and Randall, recognized as one of Las Vegas’s most accomplished trial lawyers, will become the new owners of Bonnie Springs Ranch as early as this spring.

With that will come a new vision for this very special place, one that respects the past while setting it on a future path of economic and environmental viability.

The detailed plans Laub and Randall recently showed to the Friends of Red Rock Canyon belie just how rapidly they were developed after the Levinson family, who has owned it for more than a half-century, decided to sell. Laub and Randall had to move fast to overtake other competitors for the property.

The exquisitely hand-drawn renderings – all in desert pastels – reveal an historical motif that you could find in an old Spanish mission or a hillside village in Tuscany or Bordeaux, bordered by walls constructed of local stone.  “We want it to feel like you’ve gone back in time 100 years or more,” said Laub, who hopes the development still will be called Bonnie Springs Ranch.

Entering via a circular driveway, passing under a stone archway, the new Bonnie Springs Ranch reveals a world that balances public space with private, custom residences.

Gone are vestiges of the Wild-West themed town – from its saloon to its railroad. Also missing are the stables. There’ll be no more horses at Bonnie Springs.

The current motel will be replaced by a far more intimate and desert-designed inn, along with a modest-sized event barn, a small amphitheater built so audiences can view the Red Rock escarpment.   A new restaurant will feature farm-to-table cuisine, much of it grown on the premises – along with a pool and surrounding meadows hugging a pond behind it.

Laub envisions this not only as a major amenity to the residents, but also to visitors – including those coming for business conferences and especially weddings.

Adjoining this eight-to-10-acre public space will be approximately 20 custom-built homes, each on lots between 2.25 and 3.5 acres, all carefully landscaped with extensive open space between them to create a rural environment that melds into the spectacular and desert.  Vegetation is being designed with a special eye toward propagating pollinators, especially butterflies, which are increasingly endangered by encroaching development.

They envision significant milkweed plantings to support migrating Monarchs, a project near and dear to Friends of Red Rock, which participated recently in a southern Nevada milkweed, mapping, seed production and planting project.

To avoid McMansions, residents will be restricted to a primary footprint no larger than 5,000 square feet, or no more than 10 percent of the individual property.  At the same time, they will be encouraged to construct compatible other buildings such as casitas.  Setbacks will be significant to further enhance a rural environment and to support vegetation.

All this means far less foot traffic.  Estimates of people passing through its turnstiles reach above half a million annually.

The future Bonnie Springs Ranch will be a far cry from today’s, with its public hangings and gunfights in the village square, cowboys wandering down its dusty main street, kids congregating at the petting zoo or riding ponies.

“We know people are emotionally attached to Bonnie Springs,” said Randall. “We too grew up there and brought our kids to experience the same fun things we did.”

It’s why a petition campaign  with nearly 35,000 signatures failed to have traction.

“The city tried to demolish the Huntridge theater years ago, and our community was able to preserve this historical building by signing a petition to make it a historical land mark. Let’s do the same for Bonnie Springs founded in 1843 with many historical buildings loaded with artifacts and memorabilia from the beginnings of our fine state,” the petition reads.

The reality, however, is that Bonnie Springs as the public has known it, is gone regardless of who purchases it. It’s no longer viable economically, and the Levinson family legally can sell it within the property’s current rural-use zoning.

In fact, the family almost sold it  more than a decade ago.

In mid-2005, the family had a 17-house neighborhood plan that would be developed by Randy Black Jr. on 34 acres, located a half mile from the current ranch. It had been approved by Clark County planners as well as the Red Rock Citizens Advisory Council. But it never did get off the ground.

Laub, who is chairman of the Nevada Nature Conservancy – which is dedicated to protecting land and water, tackle climate change and promote sustainability  – has recruited that organization and other environmental experts to help draw up plans for the new Bonnie Springs.

“A very important aspect of this project for us is to be environmentally sensitive,” emphasized Jones during a 90-minute presentation he and Laub provided the Friends’ board at their offices.

The public may not know this, noted Jones, but Bonnie Spring’s was grandfathered to permit construction of an actual casino on the property. “We were shocked to learn that ourselves,” he said. “That will never happen now.”

For the Levinson family, Bonnie Springs has always been a labor of love, especially for their matriarch, Bonnie, who died in 2016.

In listening to Laub and Jones, the words “labor of love” continually peppered their conversation as well. Both plan to have their own homes there. “We want them for our families for generations to come,” said Jones.

Because the property is fed by two or three springs and they will own all the water rights, Laub is very excited by the prospects of diverse and abundant vegetation across both public and private space – replacing bare ground especially around the corral and stables.

Residences will emphasize natural stone, with exteriors mandated within a highly controlled spectrum of color choices, he emphasized.  Shades will range from buff to brown and include some grays, blacks, mute reds and greens.

“You won’t find stucco exterior walls. We will be relying on stone,” explained Laub. Roof lines will be designed limited gables to minimize height and maximize sight lines, he added.

“Right from the gateway, it will look like a Spanish mission that you could be visiting to experience the history of the place,” he emphasized. He envisions arbors and fountains, as well as walking paths between each residence that utilize decomposed granite throughout.

It’s like gravel, but finer and generally more stable – formed from natural weathering and erosion of the tough, hard igneous rock. It also is permeable and provides relatively good drainage, while creating a smooth transition between gardens, development and the surrounding nature, noted Laub.

He has recruited a globally recognized landscape architect firm to work on the project that will combine desert varietals that don’t shed their leaves with many deciduous ones that will reveal the four seasons. “We want to see the fall colors,” he said.

The overall design is aimed at minimizing water use, Laub emphasized.

One of the biggest outstanding issues is whether Clark County officials will let the partners steer away from concrete and asphalt for roads throughout Bonnie Springs. Not only will that steal from the rural motif, but also will cause the kind of run off and erosion they are trying to avoid with the decomposed granite.

The project also will eliminate perimeter walls so residents will not quite know by sight where their properties end and BLM’s begin, said Laub.

Who do Jones and Laub envision living at Bonnie Springs?

“Well, two of the 20 lots are already taken by Joel and I,” said Jones. “We’re not going anywhere. This is for our kids. Like us, we expect that other buyers will be local people who grew up right here in Red Rock. They will be buying them more for appreciation of the canyon than appreciation of the price.”

For the two partners, this has become a project to reflect their own values and love of the canyon. They say they’ll be very happy to just break even. “It’s about our own priorities,” said Jones.

It will be reflected throughout – from Laub’s love of historic European architecture to Jones’s preference that when he sits at the new inn’s bar, he won’t have to compete with poker machines.

“There will be no gaming up here. This will be a place where you can get away from all that.”

 

Outdoor Adventures

 

Red Rock Canyon inspires at-risk teens to follow their dreams.

Nearly 13,000 students in the Clark County School District are referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice Services in a typical year. And half of those had a prior record, with most involving a felony or gross misdemeanor – often involving gang activity.

It’s a dismal picture that has motivated the Las Vegas Police Department to focus an increasing amount of resources and personnel to reach those in their early teens – and younger – before they step over the line into criminality and become one of nearly 12,000 gang members in the city .

“By engaging with youth in our community, it develops a trusting relationship. We can help kids make better choices to stay out of trouble and reduce juvenile crime,” explains Officer Glen Taylor of the department’s Office of Community Engagement.

Taylor oversees the Police Athletic League, working with scores of youth across a spectrum of sports including basketball, boxing and tennis. Now he and fellow officer Arnold Parker are leading a novel partnership with Friends of Red Rock Canyon and the Summerlin Rotary Club.

It’s called Outdoor Adventures, and for its inaugural school year, 12 young teens – six boys and six girls – have been chosen to participate in a series of nature hikes as well as work projects at Red Rock, including canyon cleanups, light-trail maintenance and graffiti removal.

“These teens may look up and see the Red Rocks in the distance, but they have no understanding, or even the imagination, to appreciate their natural wonder,” said Taylor. “We believe that exposing them to their beauty will widen horizons, while the work projects will teach them about teamwork and enhance their self-esteem.”

If the teens’ first weekend at Red Rock is any indication, Taylor’s aspiration will become reality.

Led by board members of Friends of Red Rock Canyon along with Taylor and Parker, the teens hiked along Discovery Trail and encountered a waterfall, along the way learning about the many varieties of cacti and viewing petroglyphs – remnants of ancient peoples who once lived there.

They hiked in brand new boots provided by REI as well as shirts, water bottles, knapsacks and other safety equipment financed by Friends, with a generous grant from the Summerlin Rotary Foundation.

The teens enjoyed both breakfast and a picnic lunch along the way. “That’s no small thing,” emphasized Taylor. “These kids miss many meals and almost surely depend on reduced price meals when they are at school.”  Nearly 70 percent of all students in Las Vegas qualify for subsidized meals.

Outdoor Adventures is a wonderful new initiative that is bound to alter the arc of these teens’ lives,” said Mike Levy, Summerlin Rotary’s president. “The club is very proud to participate. We already have a wonderful relationship with the Las Vegas Police Department, including our long commitment to cleaning Police Memorial Park, including landscaping and plantings.

Taylor, a 23-year police veteran, has lived in Las Vegas for 48 years. Parker was born and raised in the city.

“We are personally invested and committed to these young men and women, along with hundreds of others participating in PAL,” said Taylor. “We see the results of our work and the impact it has on their families, who are more inclined to trust law enforcement in their community.

“While PAL creates consistency in these teens’ lives and creates incentives to succeed in life, Outdoor Adventures goes beyond that because we are exposing them to a world they might never see or experience,” said Taylor.

“Some of the teens we accompanied at Red Rock never saw a cactus up close. They never encountered the kind of quiet they experienced along the trail,” he observed.

“They were meeting new people that are not ordinarily a part of their lives,” noted Rob Tuvell, a local Realtor and Friends’ board member who is liaison with the police department. “And we too were meeting and getting to know young people we might otherwise never meet.”

Taylor measures success of the department’s Community Engagement office by the number of at-risk youths that eventually attend college, enter the military and even join the police department.

But, to reach such heights, it takes a combination of experiences like Outdoor Adventures and mentors willing to contribute their experience and compassion.

“Not only was our first weekend adventure amazing because of such beautiful nature, but we also watched our youth socialize with each other as well as people they never met before,” he explained.

“Interacting with natural environments allows children to learn by doing and experiment with ideas. Plus being outside feels good. Being in nature enables children to run, jump, hop, skip, climb, roll, and shout, which relaxes, and reduces tension, anxiety, and restlessness.

“Researchers have found that outdoor play calms children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which many of our kids have,” noted Taylor.  “Nature enhances a sense of peace, and often brings out nurturing qualities in children. Often, when involved in the nature, even boisterous, active children may slow down and learn to focus on being gentle.”

“After a succession of similar weekends running through next May, we truly hope they will have a far deeper appreciation of nature – and understand that their worlds can be so much bigger than the ones they have at home.”

The police department is very excited about the potential of Outdoor Adventures growing exponentially.

“We have the capacity to recruit many kids. But, it takes about $150 per youngster to equip them safely for hiking and working in Red Rock Canyon. That’s why we are so encouraged by the partnership with Friends and Rotary,” he said.