Originally published by Fred Wasser, Nevada Public Radio
Nov 25, 2015
The Red Rock National Conservation Area is now 25 years old. Its history as a protected site goes back much further than that. It was 1936 when it was first recognized as a landmark.
Much of Red Rock’s story was told in the book, “Seekers, Saints & Scoundrels: The Colorful Characters of Red Rock Canyon.” Chuck Williams was book’s project director and one of its authors. He’s also the president of the Friends of Red Rock Canyon.
“I think people recognized from the beginning that this was a special place,” Williams said.
Williams said besides the signature red sandstone rocks, the area also features streams and meadows, which are, of course, unusual in the Mojave Desert.
He also explained that for most of the modern history of the area it was a place to throw a party and became very quickly littered with trash and abandoned cars.
“1960s were the watershed years when people started to realize we need to clean this place up,” Williams said.
However, in 1978, oil companies applied for oil leases and 22 leases to drill were issued by the federal government. Williams said that galvanized the city.
“I’ll say this about Las Vegas, people say we don’t have culture, but when someone messes with Red Rock it gets people’s attention,” he said.
The drilling didn’t happen but several people in the community worked together to ultimately get it designated as a national conservation area in 1990.
“It really provided the final protection we have,” Williams said.