Crystal Wash Rock Art - Main Site

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(Fig. 01)
MAP-Crystal Wash Main Site
Site’s Cultural History: Evidence found in these rocks and the hillside beyond, indicates that this area was frequented by an ancient culture of people known as the Pahranagats, one of several known Southern Paiute groups. The Pahranagats represented a long-standing tradition of hunter-gatherer life ways over a period of time covering several thousand years. The size of this site is large enough to have accommodated a village of several small families, most probably during the winter months. Archaeological findings consisting of ceramic sherds, projectile points, four hearths, several cupules and some cobblestone alignments have been found on the site. Though not located in the more commonly occupied Pinyon-Juniper regions found in the 5,000-8,000 foot range, this site (between 4,100 to 4,200 feet) received water from the snow melt off from the surrounding hills and, with its large boulders, offered suitable protection against the wind, making it climatically more desirable than the lower valleys which were colder during the winter months. There are even several “cave-like” areas within some of the large rocks that show evidence of habitation. Like almost all ancient tribes, they etched the rocks with abstract images and representational figures of bighorn sheep and human images. Although we may never really know what most of the rock art here means, we can suspect that it was deeply significant to those who created it. We know from the study of many other sites, that it often represents ceremonial representations, marking of game trails, designation of cultural territories and even possible astronomical markers pertaining to such phenomena as the solstices and equinoxes. Click this link to view the page on the crystal wash entrance site … Crystal Wash Rock Art - Entrance Site.
(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)
Petroglyph Marker
(Fig. 05)
11/12/2015 Trip Notes: On this visit I hiked the Crystal Wash main site with the rock hounds (Figs. 03 & 04) from Henderson’s Heritage Park Senior Center. We approached the site from the east by taking the Crystal Wash Main Access Road that runs north from highway U.S 93. From the parking area (upper right of Fig. 02) where we picked up some of the site’s handouts from the metal site register, we began walking down Crystal Wash towards the site (Fig. 01). As you can see from (Fig. 02), there are 10 designated boulder areas containing petroglyphs and other evidence of habitation. In addition to some cairns, the BLM has placed metal markers (Fig. 05) at each site area described in the handout. Due to the soft surfaces found on many of the rocks found here, it is obvious that hundreds, if not thousands of years of exposure to the natural elements of sun, rain and wind had taken a toll on these petroglyphs. Many of the boulders have begun to “flake away”, making many panels impossible to identify and or interpret. Below, by number, I have attempted to provide pictures and descriptions associated with the majority of these sites.
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Site Marker #2: As you can see, besides many non-representational motifs or designs, there are also unmistakable drawings of anthromorphs of what appear to tiny mountain sheep. Although we cannot be sure what most rock art found here means, we suspect it was deeply significant to those who created it. In addition there are a third type of rock art know as Cupules or Pit-and-groove rock art. These evidence of habitation are thought to be the oldest form of rock art, appearing in the parts of the Great Basin 7,000 years ago (Fig. 06). Though the glyph in the lower right (Fig. 08) of this large standing boulder (Fig. 07) at Marker 2 may be representative of a humanoid figure, the remaining symbols defy any real interpretation.
2015 Crystal Wash #2
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
Site Marker #3: At this site there is a grinding slick and some sheep-like figures (Fig. 09). Though extremely difficult to discern, it is alleged that there is a representation of an atlatl, or spearthrower, a device which enabled an individual to hurl a spear at a greater distance.
2015 Crystal Wash #3
(Fig. 09)
Site Marker #4: At Marker 04, there are three tall, upright boulders (Fig. 10) on the skyline across the wash and up on a low hill. The boulders make for a good landmark. Some of these glyphs were so clearly visible it leads one to think that they may have been re-pecked by more than one culture over time. Superposition occurs when petroglyphs are engraved over already existing ones, an indication that the worked-over petroglyphs were made at an earlier time. This site also contains another grinding slick on a flack rock face in front of these boulders.
2015 Crystal Wash #4
(Fig. 10)
Site Marker #5: At this location (Fig. 11) there are several flat boulders engraved with a great deal of remarkable imagery. Though almost not of it is possible to know the meaning of these images, they undoubtedly contain information that was meaningful to the Pahranagats. It is also possible that some of these drawings were superposition.
2015 Crystal Wash #5
(Fig. 11)
Site Marker #6: Archaeologists have found evidence that this site(Fig. 12)  was the location of a wickiup, or typical structure used by the Pahranagats. These shelters were constructed of frameworks made of poles covered with grass brush, rushes, or arrow weed. They were often conical in shape and usually had a smokehole. For fuel, the Pahranagats would have use local brush, which back then was in ambple supply. To the left of this marker is a dark stain on the ground indicating the remains of a hearth, and in front of it is a flat boulder with several “pocked” impressions known as Cupules. There is also a larger hole, or mortar, which was used along with a stone pestle to process seeds, nuts, or possibly to mix pigments.
2015 Crystal Wash #6
(Fig. 12)
Site Marker #7: These glyphs found at Marker 7 (Fig. 13) were on the inside of a somewhat protected “cave-like” wall in a large boulder that may have been used as a shelter. This site contains the only panel that displays pigment, or pictographs (rock art that is painted). The red pigment was a frequently used color obtained from hematite, a form of iron oxide. It is likely that at one time more color was present on this panel, but because pigment deteriorates very quickly, most of what originally existed has mostly disappeared.
2015 Crystal Wash #7
(Fig. 13)
Site Marker #8: The panel here is a striking assemblage of anthropomorphic figures and is unique to the Crystal Wash site (Fig. 14). It has been put forth that this structure of boulders may have been used as a speech platform. There is ample room to accommodate an audience, and the rock art itself suggest a gathering of people. You might be able to distinguish the human figures better in the black and white close-up. If you look carefully, you should be able to make out nearly a dozen human figures. This is even further emphasized by the rough sketch (Fig. 15) that was found on the cover of the BLM handout. It should also noted that this is the highest point of this site and would have acted as an excellent look-out.
2015 Crystal Wash #8
(Fig. 14)
BCBS Pymt004
(Fig. 15)
Site Marker #9: Because this location is somewhat outside of the normal composition of boulders that normally comprise a living area, it may have been some type of marker. The etchings (Fig. 16) on the two large boulders at Marker 9 were quite weathered and hard to discern due to the poor lighting by the sun. Unfortunately these symbols are quite abstract and tend to lack any great detail. It has been said that certain petroglyphs may have functioned as maps.
2015 Crystal Wash #9
(Fig. 16)
Site Marker #10: This final location is yet another example of a rock shelter (Fig. 17).The private and less accessible nature of this shelter, as well as the cramped space within it, suggest it had special significance and was therefore set apart from the routine of daily living.
2015 Crystal Wash #10
(Fig. 17
Cupules & Grinding Slicks: There are several examples of small cupules throughout the site. Cupules are generally considered rock art. In short, cupules are hemispherical, cup-shaped, non-utilitarian, cultural marks that have been pounded into a rock surface by human hand. In addition there were several examples of grinding slicks (Figs. 18-23). These are larger, deeper, flat basins set in granite or flat rock surfaces that were commonly used for grinding or crushing of foods with a stone mortar. Without digging down into any of these and destroying their integrity, it is impossible to determine how deep they actually are. I sure that over hundreds, if not thousands of years they have somewhat filled up with sand. A couple of these, located on the top of some boulders, may have been used to get much needed rain water. There appears to be a series of small holes surrounding one which may have been used to support a tripod–like structure. Could this have been used as a fire pit for cooking?
(Fig. 18)
(Fig. 19)
(Fig. 20)
(Fig. 21)
(Fig. 22)
(Fig. 23)
09/02/2014 Trip Notes: On our way back from a day of riding the quads around the Hamlight Flats and Lake Valley, east of Pioche, Nevada, Harvey and I decided to try and locate the Crystal Wash Rock Art Site along Highway 93. Unbeknownst to us at the time, there are actually two entrances to this area; one titled the “Crystal Wash Access Road” and one called the “Crystal Wash Main Access Road”. We entered the area using the Crystal Wash Main Access Road (Fig. 02). Using this entrance actually provides the shortest, and by far the easiest hike to and around the main site. The picture in (Fig. 01) was taken looking west towards the sight from the trailhead from the parking area, upper right corner of (Fig. 02). Because we were on our way home after an already long day, we hastily hiked about the site following the markers as best we could, paying very little attention to the handout provided at the register at the trailhead. Though we did find many interesting petroglyphs, it appears that our findings were hit & miss. Later research has shown that we missed several glyphs and possible some habitation areas. The BLM has actually done a good job of placing steel markers at each of the main petroglyph panels, however, because I didn’t take the time to make notes on what pictures went with what marker, it was very difficult to correlate the pictures I took during this visit with the written descriptions in the handout. The pictures and information noted in the trip notes above was the result of my second visit to the site.

Keystone Thrust Trail (RRCNCA)

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This page last updated on 05/22/2017
EFP-Wilson Cliffs
(Fig. 01)
MAP-Keystone Thrus Trailt
(Fig. 02)
Directions: From the Stratosphere Casino take a right onto Las Vegas Blvd south (the Strip) to Sahara Ave. Turn right onto West Sahara Ave (NV-589) and continue to follow W. Sahara Ave to 10 miles until it turns into Desert Foothills Drive. Continue on for about 4.5 miles and turn left onto NV-159 (W. Charleston Blvd). Continue to follow NV-159 (which becomes Blue Diamond Road) west for about 4.5 miles and turn right onto Red Rock Canyon Rd. After entering Red Rock Canyon, take the paved, one-way, Scenic Drive Road and drive approximately 5.5 miles to the White Rock Road (Fig. 02). This rocky dirt road leads north another mile to a fenced parking area that serves as the trailhead for the White Rock and Keystone Thrust trails. Distance from Point of Origin: 22.5 miles. Estimated (one Way) travel time: 45 minutes.
11/10/2015 Trip Notes: Blake Smith and I almost didn’t attempt this hike based upon the weather predictions. In fact by the time we got to Red Rock Canyon NCA it was extremely black and raining. However within a half an hour of arriving at the visitor center the rain stopped and the clouds started to clear over the mountains. As we prepared to leave the visitor center, headed out to White Rock Road and the trailheads, we were presented with some following vistas. (Fig. 01) is towards the Wilson Cliffs, (Fig. 03) is towards the Calico Hills, Turtle Peak and the La Madre Mountains, and the White Rock Hills in (Fig. 04). (con’t below)
EFP-Red Rock 01
(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)
From the parking area the trail heads north, crossing a large wash (Fig. 05). A hundred yards beyong the wash the Keystone Thrust trail veers to the right and up a hill that is stepped with nearly a dozen “steps” made with some old railroad ties (Fig. 06). Joining with an old jeep trail, from here the trail climbs about 500 feet up the ensuing hill along side Hogback Ridge (Fig. 02) to the high point of the trail. We even passed a few patches of snow (Fig. 07). Once you’ve passed Hogback Ridge you’ll come to another sign directing you toward the Keystone Thrust. This is the highest point of the trail and the views are really nice with Turtlehead Peak and the Calicos to the east (Fig. 08), the La Madre Mountains to the north (Fig. 09). At the saddle turn right and head down into a small canyon with a red sandstone floor. As we climbed down, you actually end up standing on the Keystone Thrust fault (Fig.10), though we thought it would actually expecting something that would be more definitive. Refer to the section below for a more detailed description of the Keystone Fault. Just this side of the actual fault line, we found a “quasi” shelter area that some hikers built (Fig. 11). Inside this walled area there made three stone “seats” on the inside of the walls (Figs. 12 & 13).

Following the trail along the upper edge of the fault line to the end of the colored sandstone area, go you end up at the top of what is probably a 100 foot waterfall (Fig. 14) when there are heavy rains, that falls down into a deep canyon that runs through dense shrubs and colorful boulders until the canyon slowly gives way to the open desert. The wash eventually leads back to the scenic loop drive, depositing you about a mile east of the White Rock turnoff. In stead of exiting this way, we decided to hike the trail back the same way we had come. In spite of the early rain, it turned out to be a beautiful day and really enjoyed the views everywhere we looked.
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
(Fig. 09)
EFP-Keystone Fault 04
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
(Fig. 12)
(Fig. 13)
(Fig. 14)
EFP-Keystone Fault 01
(Fig. 15)
Keystone Thrust Fault Description: The Keystone Thrust Fault (Fig. 15) is considered the most significant geological feature in Red Rock Canyon. For most of the last 600 million or so years, the Red Rock area was part of a deep ocean basin. About 225 million years ago, movements of the earths crust caused this sea-bed to rise slowly.  By around 180 million years ago, this area had completely changed once more. By then, it had become part of a large desert with shifting red sands and huge dune fields. These sand dunes left their marks in the rocks and cliffs. About 65 million years ago, near the end of the Mesozoic Era, the oceanic plate (west) began colliding with the North American Plate (east) as the continent shifted. The crust was compressed causing an oblique fault. A “thrust fault” is a break in the Earth's crust from squeezing or compression; the block of crust on one side of the fault block moving up the fault plane and overtopping the block on the other side of the fault. At the time the thrust fault occurred, known as the Keystone Thrust, the crust here consisted of 180 million year old red and tan sandstone overtopping 500 million year old limestone and dolomite. A block of sandstone and underlying limestone was thrust on top of a similar block, causing an alternating mountain of sandstone on limestone on sandstone on limestone. Over the next several million years, the upper sandstone was exposed to the elements and eroded away, leaving older limestone (500 million years old) atop younger sandstone (180 million years old), the Keystone Thrust. When some of the sea-bed sediments were exposed to the atmosphere, they began to oxidize. The resulting varied exposed sandstone rock formations range from white, grey, tan, orange, and red. Here the 500 million year old limestone rests on 180 million year old sandstone, forming Turtlehead Peak, and the surrounding hills. The Keystone Thrust Fault extends from the Cottonwood Fault along State Route 160 north for 13 miles along the crest of the Red Rock escarpment. It then curves east along the base of La Madre Mountain before it is obscured by very complex faulting north of the Calico Hills. Red Rock Canyon NCA provides examples of one of the most dramatic and easily identified thrust faults to be found anywhere.

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Crystal Wash Rock Art Site (Summary Page)

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This page last updated on 10/11/2017

Introduction: As I began to discover more and more rock art sites during my hikes over these past several years, I have become witness to far too many examples of where persons had seemed fit to deface them with graffiti and other examples of damage. Eventually I realized that the sharing of my hiking adventures could have the potential to increase public exposure, and thereby increasing the possibility for even more damage. As a result, I decided to preface each of my rock art pages with the following information to help educate visitors about the importance of these fragile cultural resources. Before scrolling down, I implore you to READ the following ... as well as the linked page providing guidelines for preserving rock art.

Here are a few simple guidelines you can follow that will help to preserve these unique and fragile cultural resources that are part of our heritage. Guidelines for Preserving Rock Art. If you would like to learn more about the Nevada Site Stewardship Program, go to my page ... Nevada Site Stewardship Program (NSSP).
MAP-Crystal Rock Rock Art Site-1
(Fig. 01)
Directions: There are two entrances the Crystal Wash Rock Art sites. Access to the lower Entrance Site (lower left on (Fig. 01) is 3.7 miles from the intersection of State Route 375, State Route 318 and U.S. Route 93 (the "Y"). Traveling east on U.S. Route 93, towards Caliente, it’s on the left (north) side of the road just past the 54 mile road marker. There is a BLM marker just to the left of the barbwire gate. Go through the gate and continue about 50 yards to the register. Here there are 5-6 boulders containing petroglyphs along this wash route, however, the majority of glyphs are at the Crystal Wash Rock Art - Main Site area, designated by the “square” in (upper middle of Fig. 01). The easiest way to get to the main area is to go 0.2 miles further on Highway 93, and again turn left onto an unmarked dirt road. This entrance is at a pullout with white trash can with orange netting behind it, and there is a yellow BLM marker just to the left of the gate. Go through the gate, veer left (not right) and at the next “Y” bear right and continue for about 0.6 miles to the register and parking area (upper right of Fig. 01).
Crystal Wash Site2
(Fig. 02)
(Fig. 03)
MAP-Crystal Rock Rock Art Site
(Fig. 04)
Area/Site Description: The Crystal Wash Rock Art Site is a desert area filled with many desert varnished boulders (Fig. 03) that are partially surrounded by the sandy Crystal Wash that runs through the middle of the Hiko Mountain Range, on the east side of the range (Fig. 02). A close-up of the satellite view in (Fig. 04), shows just how rocky this area is. Most of the rock art panels found here contain elements that appear to be non-representational, although they probably had a specific meaning to those who created them. There are some panels and elements that contain clearly recognizable images, such as zoomorphs with quadrupeds and anthropomorphs of human figures.When approaching the sites from either end, the quite sandy wash is surrounded by hundreds of volcanic tuff boulders, the result of a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Entering from the lower site’s inference road, about 450 yards northeast up the wash from the sign-in register, there are six panels that are sporadically placed in and around the wash. Since the rock art found here is easily accessible, this would have been a public site. Their placement suggests a possible travel route, with the rock art providing information along the way. Although the occasional lithic flakes found in the wash indicate that some stone tools were made here, along with the fact that there are a couple of boulders that may have provided shelter for short term stays, there is also nothing to suggest this was a habitation site. There is however, in the rocks above the wash at the Crystal Wash Main Rock Art Site located north of this location, indicates that ancient people stayed in the area for long periods of time. The size of the main site is large enough to have accommodated a village of several small families, most probably living there during the winter months. Archaeological findings consisting of ceramic sherds, projectile points, four hearths, several cupules and some cobblestone alignments have been found on the site. Receiving water from the snow melt coming off the surrounding hills, coupled with its large boulders, it offered suitable protection against the wind, making it climatically more desirable than the lower valleys which were colder during the winter months.
Rock Art Description:  The dominant rock art found at Crystal Wash are Petroglyphs that are etched onto rock faces by pecking, abrading, scratching, or a combination or these techniques. There is one example of pictographs (painted rock art) and one example of cupules (pit and groove rock art). Note: Cupules are thought to be the oldest form of rock art, first appearing in parts of the Great Basin 7000 years ago. The predominant style of rock art found at the Crystal Wash is classified at the Great Basin Pecked Style which includes the sub styles of Great Basin Representational, Great Basin Curvilinear Abstract, and Great Basin Rectilinear Abstract.
Visit Trip Notes: Over the past couple of years I have visited the Crystal Wash Rock Art site on three occasions. Because each of the petrograph site areas here are approachable from opposite ends, I have decided to describe and show pictures of the petroglyphs found in each area on separate pages. Click the following links to learn about each of these areas …

Click here for pictures and description of the “Main site” … Crystal Wash Rock Art - Main Site.

Click here for pictures and description of the "Entrance site" ... Crystal Wash Rock Art - Entrance Site

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Slideshow Description:
The slideshow above contains 52 pictures that were taken while hiking this petroglyph site.


Reference Materials:

Manuscript written by Kenneth C. Clarke

Pages Uploaded in November 2015

November 2015 Posts (by Category & Title):
Lincoln County/Petroglyphs - Crystal Wash Rock Art Site - Summary
Lincoln County/Petroglyphs - Crystal Wash Rock Art - Main Site
Red Rock Canyon - Keystone Thrust Fault Trail - RRNCA