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Rock Art Around Calico Basin (Red Rock Canyon NCA)
Rock Art Around Las Vegas
Calico Basin
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Calico Basin
Blanket panel

Description

Calico Basin is a colorful area tucked between the gray limestone La Madre Mountains to the north, the red sandstone Calico Hills to the west, and a desert ridge to the south. Three springs with permanent water emerge from the base of the red sandstone cliffs: Red Spring, Calico Spring, and Ash Spring. Water also runs in washes to the north and south of the springs during winter. Compared to the surrounding desert, Calico Basin is sheltered and moist, and it is easy to understand why native people spent time here.

The outflow from Red Spring feeds a marshy grassland that has recently been protected from trampling by fencing to keep wild burros out and an elevated boardwalk to keep humans off the meadow. The old road is blocked and revegetated, and parking is now just inside the entrance gate. Access to Red Spring and most of the petroglyphs is via the boardwalk.

There are many large boulders scattered along the base of the sandstone cliffs near Red Spring. Some of the rock faces are covered in desert varnish, a naturally occurring dark patina that forms on the surface of rocks in the desert. Native peoples created most of their petroglyphs by pecking away the thin layer of desert varnish to reveal the underlying red and white sandstone rock. Infrequently however, they just carved images into the surface of unvarnished rocks. Examples of both types of petroglyphs can be seen from the boardwalk a few yards north of Red Spring (Table 2, Wpt. 1).

Calico Basin
Blanket panel (view from boardwalk near Red Spring)
In addition to the petroglyphs along the boardwalk, there is a nice example of a petroglyph blanket high on the cliffs above Red Springs (Table 2, Wpt. 02). The petroglyph blanket is large (about 4 feet high), but it is best seen with binoculars from the boardwalk near Red Springs. This petroglyph is on a rock face that faces southeast, so from Red Spring, look for it up and to the northwest (see photo). There are petroglyphs on other boulders scattered about the area (e.g., just south of Red Spring and at Wpt. 03). If you scramble around looking for them, be careful in the rocks and don't touch or otherwise damage the petroglyphs.
Calico Basin
Petroglyphs along boardwalk
Black arrow = Boulder 1; white arrow = Boulder 2

Native people also made agave-roasting pits in Calico Basin, although none are easily seen in the boardwalk area. To see good examples of agave-roasting pits, drive up the Scenic Loop Road to Willow Springs.

Access to Calico Basin is via a good, paved road. Access to the petroglyph area is via a short boardwalk.

Calico Basin
Boulder 1 (see photo above) as seen from boardwalk

Location

The area is located in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, about 30 minutes west of Las Vegas, but not along the Scenic Loop Road.

Links to Area Map and Site Map.

From town, drive out towards Red Rocks. From Charleston Blvd at Highway 215 (the western beltway) (Table 1, Site 516), drive west on Charleston Blvd for 3.8 miles to Calico Basin Road (Site 520). The turnoff is about 1.5 miles before the entrance to the Scenic Loop. Turn right onto Calico Basin Road and drive north, then west, for about 1 mile to where the paved road makes a 90-degree turn to the right. At this point, turn left, drive through the gate, and enter the Red Springs Picnic Area (Site 464). Red Spring, the actual spring, is located on the far side of the boardwalk loop trail.

Red Spring
Boulder #1, close-up of top.

Hours

Red Rocks is a day-use area. The actual opening and closing times generally follow sunrise and sunset.

Fees

Admission is $5 per day (annual passes accepted), but they don't seem to be collecting fees at Calico Basin these days.

Calico Basin
Boulder #2
Calico Basin
Boulder #2, close-up of top
Red Spring
Boulder #2, close-up of top
Calico Basin
Boulder #2, close up of bottom
Red Spring
Climbing boulder NW or the boardwalk
Calico Basin
Petroglyph on Climbing Boulder
Calico Basin
Boulder southwest of Red Spring
red spring
Petroglyph on boulder SW of Red Spring
red spring
Petroglyph on boulders SW of Red Spring
red spring
Petroglyph on boulders SW of Red Spring
red spring
Petroglyph on boulders SW of Red Spring
red spring
Petroglyph on boulders SW of Red Spring
red spring
Petroglyph on boulders SW of Red Spring
Red Spring
Red Spring red spring

Table 1. Highway Coordinates based on GPS data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
464 Red Springs 36.1447 115.4194 642204 4000954 3,670 Yes
516 Charleston at the Beltway 36.1591 115.3366 649626 4002676 3,070 Yes
520 Charleston Blvd at Calico Basin Road 36.1418 115.3987 644071 4000667 3,506 Yes
Table 2. Hiking Coordinates based on GPS data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.
Wpt. Location Latitude Longitude UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
01 Petroglyphs off Boardwalk 36.14528 115.42001 642148 4001018 3,714 GPS
02 Blanket Petroglyph 36.14473 115.42033 642120 4000956 3,797 GPS
03 Climbing Rock 36.14900 115.42177 641983 4001428 3,740 GPS

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120421

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