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red rock canyon state park photo tour

The colorful and scenic cliffs that make up the Red Rock Canyon have fascinated visitors and travelers for more than a century. Located in the southern El Paso Mountains, these colorful cliffs with their stark beauty and unique features have attracted hikers, geologists, paleontologists, and campers.

Plants and Animals
Diverse plant and animal life is represented in the park. Joshua trees, typical of the sandy, well drained soils of the higher desert mix readily with the cheesebush, bursage and indian tea. Lower desert saltbrushes that are able to tolerate high concentrations of salts are represented here, too. Also abundant is the creosote bush which is found throughout the Mojave Desert. Scientists think that creosote may be one of the oldest living plants known to us since many individuals are actually clones of much older plants.

Natural Preserves
Natural Preserves have been set aside within the park to protect Red Rock's unique geology, vegetation, and wildlife. Here you will find plants like the fishhook cactus, desert holly, and the rare Red Rock tarplant.

In the spring, wildflowers may be abundant if there has been sufficient rainfall and cold temperatures during the winter. Goldfields, lupines, indian paintbrush, sand verbena and two hundred other species of flowering plants may color the landscape in April. In the fall rabbitbrush is in full bloom with beautiful splashes of yellow that brighten the landscape.

Wildlife is abundant although not always visible. Birds both residential and migratory, are numerous. Reptiles, small mammals, and numerous insects also live here. Desert dwelling animals will hide from the noonday sun seeking the shelter of a plant of burrow and emerge during the cooler hours of the day.

Native Americans
Indigenous people lived in the Red Rock Canyon. The Kawaiisu, an offshoot of the Ute-Chemehuevi, were a peaceful people who lived and traveled in small family units from the Tehachapis to the southern affluents of the Kern River and the eastern slopes of the mountains including Red Rock Canyon.

The geologic story of Red Rock Canyon is told by its unique rock formations. Layers of red and white sediments, creating the accordion-like folds in the cliff faces, are capped with a harder, more resistant black basaltic rock or pink volcanic tuff. These sedimentary and igneous layers were deposited in an ancient inland lake and valley millions of years ago and have subsequently been lifted by the Garlock, El Paso, and Sierra Frontal Faults. Streams and rivers have carved the canyon that we see today with its colorful cliff faces. The red coloring between the layers is an iron oxide (rust) staining.

Miocene fossils have been found in the cliffs of Red Rock Canyon. Scientists continue to make discoveries here. The Visitor Center is a good place to find a more complete story on the geology and paleontology of Red Rock Canyon.

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These items are historical in scope and are intended for educational purposes only; they are not meant as an aid for travel planning.
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