Golden Gate Photo - Red Rock Canyon Gallery
Fine Art Photography from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Southern Nevada.


Located along the eastern slopes of the Spring Mountains, west of Las Vegas, Red Rock Canyon is named for the bright red iron-oxide stained sandstone of the Aztec Formation. Deposited as shifting sands in a 150 to 180 million year old desert, the sand dunes were buried and petrified into sandstone beds with large-scale cross-bedding, indicative of sand dune formation. Beginning 65 million years ago, regional uplift and mountain-building began the gradual process of eroding the overlying deposits. Approximately 65 million years ago, compressional forces began to drive one continent (tectonic plate) over the top of another. This resulted in the oldest rocks on the bottom of the upper plate resting directly above the youngest rocks of the lower plate. At Red Rock Canyon, a >9,000-foot (>2,750-meter) thick section of older gray carbonate rocks (Paleozoic-age limestone) were thrust over the younger light brown and red Jurassic-age Aztec Sandstone along the Keystone Thrust Fault. The older limestone now lies at the highest ridges of the Spring Mountains. The Aztec Formation Sandstone can also be seen at Valley of Fire State Park, east-northeast of Las Vegas.

Calico Hills

Calico Hills

A favorite place for hikers and climbers, the Calico Hills are tilted ridges of Aztec Sandstone extending east from the Spring Mountains foothills.

Print No. A99-31-6

Barrel Cactus

Barrel Cactus

From an ancient desert to a modern one, Red Rock Canyon has come full circle. This is the view to the west, toward the Spring Mountains.

Print No. A99-31-8

Cross-Bedded Sandstone

Cross-Bedded Sandstone

The large-scale cross bedding of the Aztec Sandstone is the tell-tale feature of petrified sand dunes from a Jurassic-age desert.

Print No. A99-31-12

The Big Red Stripe

The Big Red Stripe

This huge red band of the Aztec Sandstone is perhaps the most recognizable natural feature from an airline window on your approach to Las Vegas from the west. Through the canyon-cut, you can see the top of the Spring Mountains in the distance. The dark gray peaks are composed of the older limestone that was thrust over the younger Aztec Sandstone.

Print No. A97SW-1-12

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