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.
Click here for a Custom Map showing the recommended route for this scenic trip.
(Map provided by RoadTripAmerica.com and built by Tom Herbertson.)
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.
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.
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.
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.