We came to the southeast corner of Nevada with plans to visit the Valley of Fire State Park. Friends had recommended that it was a “must see.” Doug found an RV park within 20 minutes of the VoF at Echo Bay on Lake Mead. Echo Bay has seen better days. Lake Mead is currently about 140 feet below full pool, which makes the RV park and any amenities a long, long way from the water. The marina closed in 2013. There’s a boat launch, but it isn’t busy. The Echo Bay RV park worked out well for us, because the sites were huge and most were vacant. We could even do some birding from our chairs.
The Valley of Fire State Park was beautiful, with lots of red rock canyons with some white rocks for variety. The park focuses on the typical tourist from Las Vegas with lots of short hikes from different parking lots. (Las Vegas is only an hour away.) The crowds really thinned if you got more than 20 minutes from the vehicle, so we had some space to ourselves. We basically covered every hike and viewpoint in the two days that we visited.
They call the feature on the left, The Fire Wave. It was about a half hour hike from the parking lot. We went a bit past the official trail to find the arch in the photo on the right. Doug did a short bit of scrambling to stand under it.
The prickly pear cactus were in full bloom, and Doug had a hard time walking past one without taking a picture. He took dozens photos.
We also encountered a new lizard for us: a chuckwalla. These interesting creatures have a unique defense mechanism. They crawl into a crack and inflate their bellies so they can’t be extracted. Here are photos of two that we saw; the bigger one was about 40 cm long and the smaller one was about 20 cm.
We were pleasantly surprised by the birding in the area. Some birders that we met when we were in St. George told us about a unique bird viewing preserve in Henderson, NV about an hour drive from our RV park. Henderson uses reclaimed water for irrigation as well as for the nine ponds in the bird viewing preserve. People come from all over the world to see the huge variety of birds that are often at the preserve. We saw 32 species that day, ten new birds for me, including a Costa Hummingbird that was sitting on her nest in the tree just outside the front door. They had a scope set up so anyone could have a peep.
Here are some shots of shorebirds that we saw in one of the ponds. The Black necked stilt has red legs and the other one with the yellow legs is a Lesser Yellowlegs.
On another day, we went about a half hour north to the Overton Wildlife Management Area. This area is for bird viewing as well as hunting. During hunting season, the days alternate between hunting and viewing. When we were there, it was wild turkey season, so some of the fields were closed to us. We did see a couple of wild turkeys that wandered outside of the main hunting fields. They looked funny with just their heads bobbing above the lush green of the irrigated field. So the birds here were pretty flighty. We had to sneak up on the Great Egrets and Doug was able to catch one flying away with his camera. We saw 25 species that day, including a Lucy’s warbler that happened to be at the edge of the picnic area during our lunch break.
Echo Bay is also within an hour of the Hoover Dam. Another pleasant surprise was that there was a Historical Railroad trail that you could walk or ride from Boulder to the Hoover Dam. So, one day we rode our bikes through the five tunnels. It was about 11 km return on a hard packed crush surface. When we got to the dam area, we locked our bikes and walked with the tourist hordes up to and over to connector bridge to take the requisite photo overlooking the dam. It was an easy and fun way to see the dam and also to get great views of Lake Mead.
We’re now half way through our week in the Zion National Park area. We’ve been so busy that our posts are delayed… but we’re on vacation. Next post will be whenever we can slow down long enough to put it together!