Seize the photo opportunities
NANPA encourages responsible photography in the wild, and the Las Vegas area—home of the 2019 Nature Photography Summit—provides exciting opportunities to shoot. Here are some recommendations from our members in the area.
About 70 miles north of Las Vegas, Arrow Canyon is great for desert landscapes. Sunrise and sunset are optimal times to photograph. Free admission. The eastern edge of the wilderness area runs through Arrow Canyon, which is confined for about 3 miles between sheer cliffs so tall and close together that sunlight rarely reaches the bottom. The Arrow Range is thick with bighorn sheep, and there are some interesting and unusual petroglyphs along Pahranagat Wash and in Arrow Canyon. More information: http://www.birdandhike.com/Wilderness/ArrowCyn/_Arrow.htm
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
610 Spring Meadows Rd., Amargosa Valley, NV 89020. You’ll find: birds, flowers/plants, landscapes, water, wildlife including pupfish and 27 endemic species, and wetlands. Best time to shoot is in the morning. This has the largest remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert.
More information: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/ash_meadows/
Clark County Wetlands Park
Death Valley National Park
The hottest, driest, and lowest national park, Death Valley is a land of extremes. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley. The majority of the park’s avifauna can be found at the low mountain springs and desert oases in February. Furnace Creek Ranch, with its diversity of habitats, is definitely a hot spot. Springs that occur at up to about 4,000 feet elevation are fairly popular wintering habitats as well. 2-hour drive from Vegas.
More information: https://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm
Desert National Wildlife Refuge
16001 Corn Creek Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89124. You’ll find: birds, flowers/plants, landscapes, wildlife (in particular desert bighorn sheep). Watch for signs. Easy to miss. Spring wildflowers are beautiful. Great trails. More information: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/desert/
Henderson Bird Preserve
Lake Mead National Recreation Area
601 Nevada Way, Boulder City, NV 89005. About 70 miles north of Las Vegas, Lake Mead is great for desert landscapes. Sunrise and sunset are optimal times to photograph. Free admission. More information: https://www.nps.gov/lake/learn/nature/index.htm
Mt. Charleston/Spring Mountains National Recreation Area
2525 Kyle Canyon Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89124. Approximately 45 minute drive from Las Vegas, the Spring Mountains are considered a “sky island” which creates an oasis environment for cooler weather, high elevation species to thrive in the middle of the Mojave Desert. Over 25 endemic plant and animal species are found here. More information: https://www.gomtcharleston.com/
Red Rock Canyon
Just on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Drive away from the Las Vegas strip up Charleston Blvd, and you will pass I-215. The entrance to Red Rock Canyon is on the right a few miles further up the road. You’ll find: flowers/plants, landscapes, wildlife (in particular wild burros and other desert wildlife; desert tortoises; pygmy rabbits at the Visitor Center). There has also been a white sheep in the area. More information: http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org
Valley of Fire
29450 Valley of Fire Hwy, Overton, NV 89040. Valley of Fire is about an hour drive (approximately 70 miles) north of Las Vegas, but is well worth the visit. You’ll find: birds, flowers/plants, landscapes, wildlife (particularly desert species). Great for desert landscapes/bright red Aztec rock formations. Sunrise and sunset are optimal times to photograph. State park fee of $10 to enter. Exit east and follow Lake Mead for sheep sightings. More information: http://parks.nv.gov/parks/valley-of-fire
7 more ideas for an extended road trip
Yosemite is approximately 6 hours northeast of Las Vegas in California. And not far from Yosemite are two lesser known gems:
Bodie State Historic Park
Hwy 270, Bridgeport, CA 93517. Bodie is northeast of Yosemite, 13 miles east of Highway 395 on Bodie Road (Hwy 270), seven miles south of Bridgeport. Bodie State Historic Park is a genuine California gold-mining ghost town, with a small part of the town’s original buildings remaining in “arrested decay.” Artifacts can be found in several buildings, and the Masonic Cemetery, Stamp Mill and Miners Union Hall— housing a museum with mining tools—are also worth noting. Great building and artifact photography. Winter hours are 9 am to 4 pm. Elevation is 8,379 ft, and the road is not plowed. Check the website or call for snow conditions and closures. More information: www.parks.ca.gov/bodie/
Mono Lake Tufa Natural Reserve
Mono Lake Highway 395, 13 miles east of Yosemite, near the town of Lee Vining, California. The reserve was established to preserve the spectacular “tufa towers,” calcium-carbonate spires and knobs formed by interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. It is one of the rare places in the world that contain such a unique group of geologic features. The extremely high salinity and alkalinity of Mono Lake has created a rare ecosystem, supporting a complex food chain of green algae, brine shrimp and alkali flies, and more than 80 species of migratory birds. Photographers come from all over the world to capture the interplay of light on the mountains, tufa, desert, and water. The reserve is open all year, though the visitor center is closed Dec 1 to March 31. More information: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?
Lake Tahoe is approximately 7 hours from Las Vegas in northern Nevada.
Elko, Nevada/Ruby Mountains is about 7 hours north of Las Vegas in northern Nevada. Outstanding for wildlife and landscapes. More information: http://www.exploreelko.com/ or https://travelnevada.com/discover/27111/ruby-mountains
Zion and other parts of Utah are in close proximity.
Grand Canyon in Arizona is a 4-hour drive from Las Vegas.