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The Beauty of the Valley of Fire, Nevada

In the days before the first European colonists arrived, the Nevada desert was the home of the Ancient Pueblos (also known as the Anasazi). But before the Pueblos colonized the region, it was shaped by natural forces. Water, winds and tectonic movements molded the land, carving rivers in the earth and pushing mountains up. Join me on a visit to one of the most beautiful places in North America.

Sunrise:

As the sun rises on the desert, temperatures shift from about 50°F (10°C) to a sweltering 110°F (43°C).

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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When in the desert, one might expect to find arid, dry, lifeless, rocky and sand-covered landscapes... (Actually, about 150 million years ago, this place was covered in pines and enjoyed a temperate climate)

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Now, the land is dry most of the year, and the top soil seems to flake after the brief, rare instances of rain...

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Even in these harsh conditions, it seems that nature enjoys being an artist, balancing rocks as if they were toys...

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Painting the desert as if it were a big, brown-orange canvas...

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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And carving statues of giant red rock like they were small bits of clay.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Life

But this seemingly-dead land is actually the home of many animals, like this chuckwalla (which are the second-biggest lizards in the United States).

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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|The Antelope Ground Squirrels are also permanent residents of the Valley of Fire. These tiny rodents are surprisingly resiliant to hyperthermia and can survive body heat of 104°F (40°C).

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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The Desert Big Horn Sheep are also permanent residents, often seen laying in the shade of trees and caves during the hottest times of the day. These amazing animals can lose 30% of their body weight in liquids and still survive, and unlike other mammals - their body temperature can fluctuate several degrees to deal with the extreme temperature changes in the desert.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Colors & Shapes

Occasional water flow and constant winds blast these rocks, carving holes and arches in them over millions of years...

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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When tectonic plates moved in the past, big chunks of rock got pushed out of the ground, and rain and wind smoothed them into wonderful shapes, while revealing the ancient layers of different soil compositions throughout the planet's different ages.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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The different compositions of materials give the rocks their unique colors, painting the desert in strange, wonderful patterns.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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The red rocks are rich in oxidized iron (rust), the black rocks are usually rich in manganese.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Known as "Crazy Hill", the different colors of this small hill show how diverse the mineral deposits are in this desert.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Water

The rarest, most prized resource in the desert. Water will pool into small temporary oases, which quickly dissipate in the heat of the day.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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As water flows, it slowly erodes the rocks, carving ever-deepening gorges and canyons.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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The canyons become riverbeds, encouraging the water to carve deeper in the ground. During the rainy season, these passes can be extremely dangerous due to flash-floods.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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But during the dry season, they make for a spectacular hiking location, with views that almost feel alien.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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In some cases, floodwater "digs" caves in the sandstone walls, forming amazing shapes like the ones seen below.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Petroglyphs

The native inhabitants of the land - the Pueblos, left many petroglyphs along the walls in various parts of the desert.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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The glyphs are thought to be part of their religious traditions, but possibly their way to teach their history to new generations.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Evening

At sunset, the desert starts to cool down, and the sky starts to mimic the reds, pinks and yellows of the desert below.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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The last rays of light, peeking between the formation of "Elephant Rock".

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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Night

The desert is a natural deterrent for human habitation, leading to very low levels of light pollution. This leads to a spectacularly clear night-sky, where the splendor of the universe is visible again.

The Hidden Beauty of the Valley of Fire in the Nevada Desert
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H/T: lovethesepics.com
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