Organizing by Niches

Vegas Traces explores the vestiges of prehistoric human activities around the Las Vegas Valley and along the White, Virgin, and Colorado Rivers and Meadow Valley Wash, illustrated in the locator map at right. Thus, our region of interest is organized into Niches of Wonder, each a general locale for given archaeological sites.  Each niche references a local geographical feature, usually a watershed, occasionally a mountain range. Understanding the flow of water goes a long way to understanding trails, habitation sites, and rock art. Though, we suspect you will find that there a number of sites chosen for their remote location.

This web site is a resource for a newly engaged body of visitors joining us in a profound sense of appreciation and personal responsibility. We hope to foster an appreciation for the timeless efforts of others in bringing meaning to their lives and passing along has been  learned about ancient life beyond the glittering lights of Las Vegas. We further hope to foster an online community sharing a personal sense of responsibility to protect these wonderful archaeological sites.

The Niches listed in the right column are arranged by location or special category.  Thus, the four key watersheds support seven Niches. For example, the White River, now largely subterranean, flows from the Great Basin Divide in the White Pine Mountains to the Virgin River and on into the Colorado River to the Sea of Cortez. For our purposes, it is segmented into three distinct Niches: White River North, Pahranagat Valley, and Pahranagat Wash.

Mountain ranges provide the geographical orientation for three Niches. And, the Mojave Road, which followed ancient trade routes, provides yet another Niche. The Solar Interactions Niche leads to the fascinating archeo-astronomical sites that highlight times and seasons throughout these desert spaces.

Specific Directions Will Not Be Given

In order to protect the pristine nature of many sites and to prevent vandalism which is unfortunately all too common, directions to specific sites will generally not be included. We will often use common names by which the sites are known in the rock art communities unless they provide too much location information. The goal is not to hide the sites from public view. Indeed, we hold a profound sense that these sites are of great value to the public as a whole and should be shared: one should be able to visit most of these sites responsibly. Rather, we wish to stimulate interest that will encourage our visitors to join the broader rock art communities that self-police their own exploration of these sites.

Fortunately, there are many sites on public lands that are supervised by government agencies responsible for their protection. These sites are patrolled by rangers and have regular visits from volunteer site stewards. Often, there are also just enough visitors who might report vandalism to posted phone numbers, to discourage abuse and vandalism. Here we hope to encourage our visitors to explore these public sites with an understanding of site etiquette and what to do when they see the sites being abused.

Many of the most important sites are public sites. As the character of each site depends upon the season and even time of day one visits, one could happily spend months exploring just the public sites described here. That would be an excellent way to start.

Approximate Travel Times to Base Towns

All trailheads for these sites are within about three hours drive time from metropolitan Las Vegas. The exception, our “As the Crow Flies” Niche, treats sites that are outside our drive time limit, but were closely connected to the Las Vegas Valley, at least through trade, if not closer cultural contact. For example, the source of pottery, temper material, or obsidian cores and the shared styles of rock art may be found at sites in the Arizona Strip, which cannot easily be reached by the average vehicle.

Please note, however, that from the trailhead, actually getting to any of these sites may require as much as five hours hiking through sandy washes or up mountainsides. Moreover, modern roads do not follow all of the ancient routes and getting to the trailhead may require off road transportation. Be aware of the risks and hazards of off road travel through remote desert regions. They will be emphasized throughout this site. However, please know, that six of our favorite sites are public and require less than one mile of walking, sometimes as little as three or four hundred yards, from a dedicated  parking area.

For the time being,  we will give the mileage and approximate travel time from Las Vegas for each niche to the town or city with basic facilities nearest the trailheads. Most base towns are within two hours travel time from Las Vegas. The actual site of Parowan Gap, UT is just less than three hours.

Approximate mileage for base locations north of Las Vegas will be from the intersection of I-15 and US-95/93. Approximate mileage for base locations south of Las Vegas will be from the Intersection of I-15 and I-215. Travel times to the trailhead and actual site will require additional travel.

If we feel we have developed a community of responsible enthusiasts, we will disclose more travel information. No mileage to base is given for the Las Vegas Valley, Pahranagat Wash, and Muddy Mountains Niches. All approximate mileage and travel times © 2013 Google Maps.


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