While visiting the town of Goodsprings, Nevada you’ll likely find yourself eager to investigate the prehistoric relics of the region. Petroglyphs are pictogram and logogram images, or rock engravings, made by carving into the rock.A forty minute ride up north from Goodsprings, slightly west, and you’ll meet up with the Spring Mountain Range. There, you’ll find Potosi Mountain, the site of the famous 1942 TWA plane crash in which actress Carole Lombard and 21 others perished. Clark Gable nobly staked himself out at Goodspring’s oldest bar, the Pioneer Saloon, for three days awaiting the sad news.
If you find yourself near Mt. Potosi, you’ll discover prehistoric roasting pits, shelters made of rock, and petroglyphs. In this area, ore was too brittle to be mined, so Mormon missionaries abandoned their lead mine in 1857, a year after they started. In the early 20th century, zinc was discovered in this region of the Mojave Desert. If you’re a skilled hiker or looking for a challenge, many remains from Lombard’s plane crash still exist, but we’re asked to be considerate of the history of this site and do not remove any debris.
Nestled in Clark County, Mount Potosi is where Nevada had its first lode mine. Rock art abounds in the Spring Mountain Range. For tribal members, these petroglyphs are important religious objects that tell a story. The Paiute word for petroglyph is "tutogove po-ohp" which means "the writing of little people."
Literally hundreds of petroglyph sites exist in Southern Nevada, and many are only known by expert archaeologists out of concern of thieves. However, because petroglyphs are carved into enormous rock formations, it is extremely difficult to pilfer them. Some petroglyphs are located in dangerous places, like cliff edges, and near boulders.
Mount Potosi is the most notable peak of the Spring Mountain Range, standing 8,515 feet and 14 miles away from Goodsprings. A serviceable road can take you up the mountain and close enough to reach the summit by a short, reasonable hike. You can also explore the entire Goodsprings Mining District, which covers about one-hundred square miles, has over seventy-five mines, and many prospects numbering hundreds in the southern end of the Spring Mountains. This district prospered from 1856 to 1957. Part of the mining district runs south along the western side of Nevada route 161. Because the shafts and adits of the mines are upwards to 500 feet into the mountains, many still contain original equipment and remains.
If you head up northeast, approximately another 40 minute drive from Goodsprings, you’ll come to Sloan Canyon and the Sloan Canyon National Preservation Area. Maxing out at 48,438 acres, located between Las Vegas and Henderson, you’ll find a plethora of petroglyphs. Over three-hundred rock engravings and rock art have been enumerated at Sloan Canyon containing within them, from twelve-hundred to seventeen-hundred individual petroglyphs.
Named the Sloan Canyon Petroglyph Site, each petroglyph was created by natives dating back to the Archaic era. Features of this dramatic landscape are volcanic rock peaks darting up to five-thousand feet and dry lake beds. Sloan Canyon was recognized in 2002 as a National Conservation Area, protecting the land for the public’s enjoyment. This also means visitors must not touch the rock art, because oil from your skin can damage them, but you are allowed to take photographs.
While in the Sloan Canyon area, be sure to visit the North McCullough Wilderness. Enjoy activities such as hiking, horseback riding and observing wildlife. As with all congressional conservation areas, motorized travel is prohibited, and throughout the petroglyph area of the Sloan Canyon National Preservation Area only hiking is allowed.
Throughout Southern Nevada the cultural artifacts and petroglyphs of the Native Americans have survived harsh desert conditions, and over hundred degree temperatures, for thousands of years. It would be a shame to miss the hands-on experience of a Vegas Off Roads Tour, taking you up close and personal to some of these ancient stories in stone.
Meeting right in the heart and historical center of Goodsprings, Nevada, the Vegas Off Roads Tour starts and ends at the Pioneer Saloon. Just over a half hour away from Las Vegas, this tour cannot be duplicated and it’s one of the best ways to bear witness to wild plants, desert animals, and the Mojave Desert area climate. Because of the Southern Nevada ecosystem, this outdoor adventure is barely, if ever, called off for rain because it’s sunny most of the year, and winters are mild.
What you won’t find in other parts of the country where populations and progress have impeded nature, you’ll find in Goodsprings and the surrounding area: wild horses and wild burros roaming freely. You may even see a desert tortoise, which currently are on the endangered species list.
Make note of some other spectacular animals and plants unique to the area: wild flowers, humming birds, the Cholla and Barrel cactus, antelopes and mule deer. When learning of the nature surrounding the Mojave Desert, keep in mind this is the same famous desert that houses Death Valley.
At last tally, Goodsprings, Nevada totaled about 230 residents. You may run into more tourists than locals, but you’ll definitely get a more varied, more personal experience than the cookie cutter Las Vegas style tours available today.
So hop on an ATV, and head west into the fields, dunes, and wilderness. And absorb the fact that you’re riding over terrain once crossed by our ancient ancestors – the tribes who carved the fantastic petroglyphs preserved in Southern Nevada.