Wild Lands of the West | The BLM, National Geographic Magazine: Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon

Tiny hiker jumps on top of towering orange cliffs with a brilliant blue sky.

A climber hops from boulder to boulder on a petrified sand dune in Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the Bureau of Land Management’s most visited sites and a world-famous climbing destination. The large space absorbs a million visitors a year that choose the canyon’s solitude over slot machines.

The conservation area is part of the Mojave Desert where towering Aztec sandstone (a lower Jurassic geological formation) reaches 3,000 feet. The dunes are part of the Keystone Thrust, a fault line with a complex geological history that created the dramatic red rock landscape.

Over 250 million years ago, tectonic shifts forced the Earth’s crust to rise. As it receded, water that was left made formations of salt and gypsum. Rocks that had been part of the seabed oxidized, forming rust, creating the characteristic red rock color throughout the region.

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