Near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

Red Rock is on the west side of Las Vegas near the suburb called Summerlin. Only a half hour drive from the Strip.

Many parts of Red Rock Canyon are closed but I ventured out to a hill that is just before the start of the Conservation Area.

I badly wrenched my back ten days ago, landing me in the emergency room, but today I just had to get out.

The highlight was my first desert tortoise sighting. Desert tortoises have been a mythical beast for me since I moved to Las Vegas in late 2015. Much talked about, rarely seen.

I took a few quick photos in a matter of seconds and then retreated quickly to leave him in peace.


Original distance. We associate tortoises with sand but not in this case. This tough, rocky hill has not a wit of sand on it. A geologist of mine was once in a quarry near Barstow breaking rocks for specimens. Rhyolite chunks and boulders all around. A desert tortoise passed by, calmly climbing over the rhyolite chunks, and finally settling down about ten feet away from the geologist. It was still there when he left.


Zoom in photo. I did not get this close!


Where can improve your chances of seeing a desert tortoise? There’s a remote place in the California desert in Kern County called the Desert Tortoise Natural Area:

Official site:

http://www.tortoise-tracks.org/wptortoisetracks/visiting-the-dtrna/

Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Environmental-Conservation-Organization/Desert-Tortoise-Research-Natural-Area-823835161047118/

Here’s what their FB Page says as of March 20:

Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area
March 20 at 3:17 PM ·

“The Desert Tortoise Research Natural Area remains open for public enjoyment during these unsettling times. We only have one Naturalist on staff at any point in time, therefore our Naturalist also remains on site. The safety of our Naturalist, visitors, and community are a priority, so please follow all CDC guidelines when visiting including practicing social distancing and do not visit in large groups. All scheduled events have been postponed until further notice, and we are restricting the number of visitors into our interpretive trailer at any one point in time. The desert spring is in full bloom, the tortoises are out, we have freshly groomed trails, plenty of fresh air and open space for public enjoyment. Stay safe and be well!”

I’d add, take good maps.

Some desert wildlife refuges indicate an area to wander around looking. This sign is on Corn Creek Road, off of I-95 north of Las Vegas. Corn Creek Road leads to the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.  I have also seen warning signs at some campgrounds in tortoise country. They say to check under your vehicle before starting off. Tortoises like shade and may take a nap next to one of your tires.

Now, back to my hike of yesterday. Here’s looking east to the Las Vegas skyline.

Massive detention pond for holding rainwater back from the nearby desert wash.

A limestone fest, uplifted marine floor. Much of the black material is probably coral sponges. Maybe?

And a gun range on the west side of the hill, now completely silent.


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About thomasfarley01

Freelance writer specializing in outdoor subjects, particularly rocks, gems and minerals.
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