Valley of Fire State Park is home to one the largest concentrations of petroglyphs in the state of Nevada. The petroglyphs located here, have been dated by archeologists, some of them have been identified to be over 3,000 years old.
The Gypsum People were the first known inhabitants of Valley of Fire, they visited here 1800-4000 years ago (2000 B.C.-200 A. D.). The Gypsum People were nomadic hunter-gather people. It is believed that these people didn’t live in the Valley of Fire, but rather traveled here for ceremonial and religious purposes.
Later groups of native people who would spend time in and around the Valley of Fire include the Basket Makers, the Anasazi Pueblo People that farmed in nearby Moapa Valley, and later in historic times, the Southern Paiute.
None of these groups of people are believed to have lived full-time in the Valley of Fire, as there are no water sources in the area, with the exception of water that may have collected in natural stone tanks (like Mouse’s Tank).
It is very likely that the Valley of Fire petroglyphs had been created over a period of roughly 3,000 years, by members of each of these cultural groups.
Petroglyph Canyon is one of two rock art sites in the park that are easy to reach (the other being Atlatl Rock), both are well advertised as public rock art sites. The trail begins at the Mouse’s Tank trailhead, one mile north of the park’s visitor center. The trail is only a half-mile in length, and is very sandy. Expect the trail to be busy, as it is a popular trail among tourist; many of which speed by the rock art never even noticing it.
Pay particular attention to the north face of the canyon walls, as this is where you will find the largest concentration of petroglyphs. Over the course of the half-mile hike you will see thousands of designs, some highly concentrated on one rock panel, and others spread out. Many are also located high above on rock faces, and cliffs.
You have reached the end of the canyon when you come to Mouse’s Tank, a natural stone tank that stores water year round. The tank was named after “Little Mouse,” a Southern Paiute Indian who hide out in this area in the 1890’s, after he was accused of murdering two mining prospectors.