Red Rock Hours & Safety Update

UPDATE 6/21/20: The Bureau of Land Management expanded the Scenic Drive daily operation hours on June 21, 2020. The 13-mile Scenic Drive at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Visitor Center and Gift Shop remains closed.

Summer hours normally start April 1 but were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to address visitor, employee and volunteer safety. Click here for further details.

UPDATE 6/1/20: The Bureau of Land Management has increased recreation access at Red Rock Canyon.

With the lifting of public health and safety restrictions enacted by Nevada officials, the Bureau of Land Management announced that it is increasing recreational access at Red Rock National Conservation Area. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a case-by-case basis.

CURRENT OPEN FACILITIES INCLUDE:

  • Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive
  • Red Rock Overlook
  • Late Night Trailhead
  • Red Spring Boardwalk
  • Calico Basin and Kraft Mountain Trailheads

Late exit and overnight permits will not be issued until further notice. Parking is only permitted in parking lots and not along the Scenic Drive. When the parking lots are full and the area hits capacity, the gates will be temporarily closed until the area drops below capacity.

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. At Red Rock Canyon NCA, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance, and to regularly monitor these. We continue to work closely with the Department of the Interior and follow CDC guidance to ensure public and employee spaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.

While these areas are accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, practice social distancing and avoid high-risk outdoor activities.

The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating on public lands prevent the spread of infectious diseases. We will continue to monitor all functions to ensure that visitors adhere to CDC guidance for mitigating risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, and take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.

CURRENT CLOSURES

With public health in mind, the following facilities/areas remain temporarily closed at this time:

  • Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center
  • Red Spring Picnic Area (picnic tables closed; parking lot & restrooms open)
  • All campsites at the Red Rock Campground

The Red Rock Campground will remain closed, as it closes annually between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend.

All programs and events have been cancelled or rescheduled.

UPDATE 5/7/20: The Bureau of Land Management announced fire restrictions for southern Nevada. These restrictions prohibit visitors from starting or using campfires & charcoal grills, smoking outside a vehicle, launching fireworks, and more. Click here for further details.

We continue to remind our visitors to follow the CDC’s guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, including maintaining social distancing, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and staying home if you feel sick. Visitors are encouraged to “pack it in and pack it out” as future trash removal may be limited due to limited staff availability in some areas.

Please review the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics recommendations for getting outside during COVID-19.

Red Rock Tortoises Preparing for Brumation

With the cooler weather of autumn finally upon us, the Red Rock Canyon Desert Tortoises are getting ready for brumation. Unlike hibernation in mammals, brumation in reptiles is not considered true sleep. Instead, their metabolisms, or body processes, slow down dramatically and they are mostly inactive during the winter. Sometimes desert tortoises will come out of their burrows on particularly warm winter days, or to have a drink if it rains, but otherwise they don’t move much in cold weather. If you want to learn more about the differences between brumation and hibernation, this blog is a great resource.

Red Rock Canyon Desert Tortoise, Shelby, relaxing outside her burrow.
Shelby’s not sure how to feel about waking up today…

To prepare for brumation, desert tortoises begin eating less as the weather gets cooler. When we think of mammals hibernating, we often imagine bears or squirrels gorging themselves to put on weight for the long winter months. Because desert tortoises’ bodies get so cool during cold weather, however, they cannot digest food during that time. It’s important that their digestive tracts are mostly empty before they begin brumation, or they could become ill. Going to bed on an empty stomach is a good thing for a tortoise!

Red Rock Canyon Desert Tortoises having breakfast.
(From left to right) Willie, Lucie, Libby, Betty, and Mae enjoying breakfast.

Friends of Red Rock Canyon volunteers will continue with feeding and soaking days through the end of September. The remaining feeding days will be at 8 a.m. on September 14th, 18th, 21st, 25th, and 28th. Soaking days will be at the same time (or later if the torts are sluggish in the mornings) on September 16th and 23rd. Come out and visit for your last chance to see some tort activity before next spring!

Happy 30th Birthday Max!

Max is the only tortoise in the enclosures behind the Visitor Center at Red Rock Canyon whose age is known. He was hatched at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in 1989. The rest of our tortoises are rescues so we can only make educated guesses as to their ages. With that in mind, we decided to have a party for Max’s 30th birthday on Saturday, April 27th, 2019.

Our human guests were treated to coffee and some adorable tortoise cupcakes from Daisy Cakes. The tortoises dined on tortoise chow and had kale for “dessert.”

Yum!

As the star of the show, Max naturally decided to sleep in a bit. Everyone else was awake bright and early, and they eagerly dug into their breakfasts. Lucie and a couple of the other girls were already finished with the tort chow and had moved onto their kale by the time Max woke up at 9 a.m. Tortoises should never eat sweets, but we couldn’t help getting a quick shot of Max and a tort cupcake. He seemed interested!

*Sniff sniff*

Maybe the sweet smell of cupcake whetted his appetite, because Max finished his chow in record time. Then he demolished the fresh kale, stem and all.

Happy 30th, Max. Here’s to many more!

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