Sloan Canyon’s New Look

Sloan Canyon's new visitor's center.Photo by Osie Turner
Sloan Canyon’s new visitor’s center.
Photo by Osie Turner

On the edge of Henderson, in a nondescript canyon in the McCullough Wilderness Area lies some of the oldest and best preserved petroglyphs in North America. In fact, Sloan Canyon has sometimes been called the Sistine Chapel of Native American rock art. While it used to be nearly inaccessible to the public, this extraordinarily unique treasure has recently become a lot more accessible to Las Vegas residents.

In the past, accessing Sloan Canyon was not an easy feat, if you could even find out where it was in the first place. This arose from an attempt to protect the site from vandals and looters; the information was available but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the canyon’s location was made easily available to the general public. Even then, getting there required a four wheel drive off road vehicle to make the four and a half mile drive along the powerline access road from the Sloan off-ramp of the I-15 freeway to the mouth of the canyon.

Altohugh it doesn't look like it, this is the dirt road from Democracy Drive that leads to the turnoff to Nawghaw Poa RoadPhoto by Osie Turner
Altohugh it doesn’t look like it, this is the dirt road from Democracy Drive that leads to the turnoff to Nawghaw Poa Road
Photo by Osie Turner

The continuing expansion of Henderson’s neighborhoods into the surrounding desert led to more and more people are visiting and exploring the area. The Henderson Executive Airport and now the Inspirada housing development are both a stone’s throw away.

The Bureau of Land Management, which manages Sloan Canyon and the surrounding wilderness area, has recently paved a short stretch of road leading to a small visitor’s center and parking lot. The Nawghaw Poa Road begins a little way from the corner of Democracy Drive and Via Firenzie. You actually can’t even see it from there, but if you drive onto the dirt road heading west from the intersection, it will pop up on your left, seemingly out of nowhere. The beginning of this road looks a little like the entrance to some type of government facility if you arrive after the gate is closed, but of you drive up to it you will find the sign with the hours on it. In the future, presumably, the road will be paved from the intersection to the turn off.

The begining of Nawghaw Poa Road, leading to the visitor's center.Photo by Osie Turner
The begining of Nawghaw Poa Road, leading to the visitor’s center.
Photo by Osie Turner

Inside the visitor’s center is a little Spartan at present. The friendly staff will give you a map of the area and advice on the trails and area, but that is pretty much it. There are a few portable toilets next to the center, but otherwise no amenities. From there, it is a short walk to the beginning of the trail system. From the parking lot, it is a little over a one mile walk to the petroglyph canyon; the path is fairly smooth and level but in the summer heat it will feel like much further and is not advisable to even attempt; it is best to wait until fall.

This is the old road that used to lead to the canyon.Photo by Osie Turner
This is the old road that used to lead to the canyon.
Photo by Osie Turner

According to an article published in the Las Vegas Review Journal, access to the petroglyph canyon, the area with the highest concentration of rock art, may be restricted to guided tours on weekends and holidays sometime in the future. The need to protect the delicate rock etchings is understandable, but it will be a little disappointing to lose the freedom to walk the canyon on your own and dwell on the possible meanings of now undecipherable pictographs left by the original inhabitants of our valley.

From June to the end of September, Sloan Canyon is only open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; October through May it is open every day, also from 8 to 4:30. For more info on Sloan Canyon and the McCullough Wilderness, visit blm.gov.

Comments

4 responses on “Sloan Canyon’s New Look

  1. While I do like the idea of being able to visit without that long, bumpy drive on the powerline road, I sure hope the petroglyphs can be protected. Sloan Canyon is amazing.

  2. What is ironic about the new paved road and etc. is that now you have to walk about 4 extra miles to see the rock art. Before this new road was opened, it was a bumpy 4-WD “road” up the mouth of Sloan Canyon and there was a parking area just before the canyon walls closed in. It was possible in the “old days” to park and walk up to the most glorious parts of the canyon in about 1/2 hour. Now, if you park in the official parking area, it takes about 90 minutes to walk up to the start of the trail at the base of the canyon.

    No question that this will probably lead to better protection of the rock art — but it’s a lot less interesting a walk.

    Mark

  3. Fine introduction. Just one question – Who has called Sloan Canyon the Sistine Chapel of Native American rock art? I have not yet been to either place, so I’m not one to judge! Would like to know if this is hyperbole or a just description.

  4. Ron,

    Thanks for the comment. I think that description is mostly from the writer’s head. While I think that the Sloan Canyon area has some remarkable rock art, it is no where as prolific or as intriguing as some of the panels in the Grapevine Canyon area or Cosos canyons found on the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. I think the more amazing thing is how much rock art one can find in the Mojave Desert. There are very few places where such art is not found in the Mojave.

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