Valley of Fire – Trip Notes for 01/29/2014 & 01/01/2014 (Mouse’s Tank )

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(Fig. 01)
Mouse's Tank
(Fig. 02)
The Trailhead and Trail: The Mouse's Tank, which is also called Petroglyph Canyon Trail, is a hiking trail off White Domes Scenic Drive. It is between the Visitor Center and the Rainbow Vista Trail parking area. There are restrooms and a picnic shelter.The view in (Fig. 01) is looking due southeast from the trailhead just of the parking area (Fig.02).  A half-mile round trip trail leads to Mouse’s Tank (Fig. 04) from the trailhead parking area. The trail (Fig. 03), filled with very fine sand, is surrounded by red rock cliffs and bee hive shaped mountains.  There are excellent examples of prehistoric petroglyphs all along this trail. Many of the rock faces along the trail 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.
(Fig. 03)
Mouse’s Tank: Mouse’s Tank itself is a natural basin in the rock where water collects after each rainfall.  There are actually two natural potholes (an upper one and a lower one) in the sandstone rock part way down a waterfall. When you reach the area of the tanks, you will be looking down into the lower tank, unable to actually reach the water in the tank. Water collects in the potholes after rains, and because they are mostly shaded from the sun, the water often lasts for months. The colors at the tank during Early morning (Fig. 04) and sunset are brilliant. The word "tank" comes from cowboy lingo, where a "tank" is a place that holds water. Mouse’s Tank is named for a Southern Paiute Indian renegade (“Little Mouse”) who used Valley of Fire as a hideout in the 1890’s after he was accused of killing two prospectors and other crimes in the area.
(Fig. 04)
01/29/2014 Trip Notes: This was my second visit to Mouse’s Tank this year. On this visit I had much more time than on my previous visit and as a result was able to spot a lot more petroglyphs. In fact, some panels were so large, I can’t believe I missed them on my first visit. Some of the are located so high (Figs. 05 thru 08) on the cliffs that boarder the wash trail, it is hard to imagine how anyone was able to etch them out in the first place. My only thought is that hundreds, if not thousands of years of erosion have lowered the base of the wash to what it is today. The collage in (Fig. 09) shows some close-ups of these etchings. On this visit I even noticed that there were some petroglyphs on the sides of the cliff (Fig. 10), across the road from the parking lot. (Fig. 11) is a close-up of the center of the picture in (Fig. 10) where the woman in the picture is staring.
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
2014 Mouses Tank Petroglyphs
(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
01/01/2014 Trip Notes: Pay particular attention to the north face of the canyon walls, as this is where you will find the largest concentration of petroglyphs. Careful observation over the course of the half-mile hike will reveal nearly a dozen separate petroglyph panels with hundreds of designs, some highly concentrated within single rock panels, and others spread out over much larger areas (Figs. 12 thru 15). Many are also located high above on rock faces, and cliffs, nearly out of sight. Almost all are located on the left side of the trail, with some being very vivid and in great detail, the petroglyphs here are very good representations of many different things. Some, such as desert bighorn sheep and human forms, are easy to identify, while others look like geometric designs that don't appear to represent anything. They are what you think they are because no one knows for sure.  Some appear to appear to represent the history left by the Indians who traveled along the trail in later years. Some areas even look 'cluttered' as though more than one tribe may have tried to use the available space.

(Fig. 12)
(Fig. 13)
(Fig. 14)
Brief Petroglyph History: Some of the petroglyphs located here have been dated by archaeologists, with many of them having been identified to be over 3,000 years old. The Gypsum People were the first known inhabitants of Valley of Fire, they visited here 1800-4000 years ago (2000 B.C.-200 A. D.). The Gypsum People were nomadic hunter-gather people. It is believed that these people didn’t live in the Valley of Fire, but rather traveled here for ceremonial and religious purposes. Like Atlatl Rock, some of the petroglyphs at Mouse’s Tank fall within a region that was occupied by Puebloan farmers during the period from approximately AD 1 to 1200 and contains many Puebloan style petroglyphs (Puebloan, and post-Puebloan or Numic ages). Later groups of native people who would spend time in and around the Valley of Fire include the Basket Makers, the Anasazi Pueblo People that farmed in nearby Moapa Valley, and later in historic times, the Southern Paiute. None of these groups of people are believed to have lived full-time in the Valley of Fire, as there are no water sources in the area, with the exception of water that may have collected in tinajas (natural stone tanks like Mouse’s Tank). It is very likely that the Valley of Fire petroglyphs had been created over a period of roughly 3,000 years, by members of each of these cultural groups. The Mouse Tank Trail affords a rare opportunity to view a kind of site in southern Nevada that typically would require traveling to Arizona or southern Utah to see. For more pictures and detailed history click here ... Mouse's Tank Petroglyphs.
2014 MT Petroglyphs
(Fig. 15)

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Slideshow Description:
The slideshow above contains 17 pictures that were taken on this short hike.