Start of the Mouse's Tank Trail
The Valley of Fire is a dry, sparsely vegetated desert area
with spectacular red sandstone crags and rock piles that have eroded in
a variety of interesting and unusual forms. Many rock faces are covered
with desert varnish, a naturally occurring dark patina that forms on
the surface of rocks in the desert. Native peoples who lived in the
area created petroglyphs by pecking away the desert varnish to reveal
the underlying light-colored rock.
Along the trail (view southeast).
Access is via good, paved roads. The main road runs east-west
across the State Park through a broad, flat valley bordered by dark
gray limestone mountains on the south and fire-red sandstone crags on
the north. The campground and Atlatl Rock are in the western end of the
valley, the Visitor Center is in the center, and Lake Mead lies just
beyond the eastern end. One side-road, starting at the Visitor Center,
runs north through a red sandstone canyon and out into a spectacular
area with multicolored (shades of red and white) sandstone crags.
Mouse's Tank is two natural potholes in the sandstone rock
part way down a waterfall. Water collects in the potholes after rains,
and because it is mostly shaded from the sun, the water lasts for
months. The word "tank" comes from cowboy lingo, where a "tank" is a
place that holds water. The name "Mouse" comes from a Southern Paiute
Indian named Little Mouse who is said to have hid out here while
trying, unsuccessfully in the end, to avoid a white lynch mob during the 1890s.
to more information about the legend of Mouse's Tank.
The short route to Mouse's Tank runs down the sandy wash in
Petroglyph Canyon, passing with an extensive and amazing array of very
nice petroglyphs along the way. The extensive and varied petroglyphs,
the red sandstone, and the numerous chuckwalla lizards make this a
This site is just the tip of the iceberg at Valley of Fire.
Wander around and explore the area looking for petroglyphs and other
evidence of past human use of the area. Remember, however, petroglyphs
and artifacts are national treasures that are easily damaged. Please
take care of the area and leave it as you found it for generations to
Links to Area Map and Site Map.
Valley of Fire is located about one hour east of Las Vegas.
The quickest way to get to the Valley of Fire from Las Vegas
is to drive north on Highway I-15 (actually northeast) for about 33
miles to Exit 75E. Exit at the Indian Smoke House and drive east on
Highway 169 for about 20 miles. After crossing the mountains and
driving down a spectacular limestone canyon, you will arrive at the
entrance station and the first views of the red sandstone crags.
the fee, and then continue east for 4 miles to the Visitor Center
turnoff (Table 1, Site 1223). Turn left and drive north towards the
Visitor Center (Site 0683), but just before reaching the Visitor Center,
turn left and drive west on the Road to Mouse's Tank and the White
Domes. The Mouse's Tank parking area (Site 1224) is just a few minutes up
the road. From the trailhead, it is about 0.25 miles to the heart of
the petroglyph area.
A more scenic, but slower way to get to the Valley of Fire
from Las Vegas is to drive out through Lake Mead National Recreation
Area. From downtown, drive north on Highway I-15 for about 2 miles to
Lake Mead Blvd. Exit the Interstate and drive east Lake Mead Blvd.
Cross over the mountains, pass the Lake Mead entrance station (paying
$5 per vehicle), and continue to the T-intersection at Northshore
Road. Turn left (east) onto Northshore Road and drive
out past Echo Bay to the turnoff to Valley of Fire. Turn left (west)
and drive about 6 miles to the Visitor Center (Site 0683). Pay the
entrance fee at the Visitor Center.
The park is always open. The visitor center (open daily, 8:30
AM to 4:30 PM) provides exhibits on the geology, ecology, prehistory,
and recent history of the park. Most birding and hiking places are in day-use areas.
Entrance Fee: $6.00 per vehicle per day; $60.00 for annual
pass. Camping Fees: 14.00 per night per vehicle ($6 entrance fee + $8
more), but you get long hot showers for that price (showers only in
Atlatl Rock Campground).
For More Information
Visit the state park website; or call them at 702.397.2088.