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 gorges and canyons in the earth and pushing mountains up.
Join me on a visit to one of the most beautiful places in North America.
As the sun rises over the desert, temperatures shift from about 50°F (10°C) to a sweltering 110°F (43°C).
Around 150 million years ago, this area was covered in pines and enjoyed a temperate climate.
Nowadays, it is a desert that is dry for the majority of the year. The top soil seems to flake after the brief, rare instances of rain.
It is clear to see that nature is quite the artist - carving the rock as if it were clay, while painting the desert in hues of browns and oranges.
But this seemingly-dead land is actually the home of many animals, like this chuckwalla - the second-biggest lizard in the United States.
The Antelope Ground Squirrels are also permanent residents of the Valley of Fire. These tiny rodents are surprisingly resilient to hyperthermia and can survive body heat of 104°F (40°C).
The Desert Big Horn Sheep are also permanent residents, often seen resting 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.
Colors and Shapes
Occasional water flow and constant winds blast these rocks, carving holes and arches through them, a process that has taken place over millions of years.
When tectonic plates moved in the past, big chunks of rock were pushed out of the ground. Rain and wind smoothed their surface, forming them into wonderful shapes, while revealing ancient layers of different soil compositions.
The different compositions of materials give the rocks their unique colors, painting the desert in strange, wonderful patterns.
The red rocks are rich in oxidized iron (rust), the black rocks are usually rich in manganese.
Known as "Crazy Hill", the different colors of this small hill show just how diverse the mineral deposits are in this desert.
Water is the rarest, most prized resource in the desert. It forms a small temporary oasis, which quickly dissipates in the heat of the day.
As water flows, it slowly erodes the rocks, carving gorges and canyons.
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.
But during the dry season, they make for a spectacular hiking location, with views that almost feel alien.
In some cases, floodwater "digs" caves in the sandstone walls, forming amazing shapes like the ones seen below.
The native inhabitants of the land - the Pueblos, left many petroglyphs along the walls in various parts of the desert.
The glyphs are thought to be part of their religious traditions, but could possibly be their way of teaching their history to new generations.
At sunset, the desert starts to cool down, and the sky starts to mimic the reds, pinks and yellows of the desert below.
Pictured below: the last rays of light, peeking between the formation of "Elephant Rock".
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.