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Wildflowers will make

As if in recognition of its 75th year as a state park, nature salutes Valley of Fire with a fine show of desert wildflowers this spring. The largest of four initial parks, Valley of Fire became the first Nevada state park, dedicated on March 26, 1935. Over the past three-quarters of a century, development of roads and facilities created the most popular park in the state. The gorgeous scenery among the vivid sandstone cliffs and eroded rock formations has not changed. It still enthralls visitors as it has since pioneer times, but more of it is accessible today than in yesteryear.

Valley of Fire State Park lies just 55 miles from Las Vegas, using Interstate 15 to the park road approaching from the west. This road cuts through the heart of the park, but many areas within its 36,000 acres remain accessible only on foot or on horseback. The park remains a biking destination, although bicyclists share the roads with motorized traffic. Off-roading is not allowed within park boundaries, but may be pursued north of the park in the Logandale Trails area, accessed from Highway 169 on Liston Road in Logandale.

Wildflowers enhance visitors’ enjoyment of Valley of Fire. Look for the flowers first along roadsides and on south-facing slopes. Although a few flowers show up even in dry years, the blossoms this spring may be the best in several years. Early bloomers showed up by mid-March, following unprecedented amounts of rain this winter. In many areas of the park, seeds sprouting into greenery look like an emerging lawn. The plants promise bountiful wildflower displays through April and into early May.

In observance of its first five years, the Nevada Division of State Parks plans special events this year in all of the 24 state parts, recreation areas and historical parks that today comprise the system. Check the Nevada State Parks Web site at parks.nv.gov for each park you plan to visit this year for updates on special exhibits, programs and outings.

Action during the Nevada special legislative session recently increased park entry fees, which had remained the same for some years. Expect to pay about two dollars more each time you enter a Nevada state park this year. Starting as early as next weekend, visitors to Valley of Fire will pay an $8 entry fee. Camping fees stay the same.

Frequent users of Nevada’s parks find that available annual park passes save money in the log run. National park passes are not honored in Nevada’s state parks. Applications for a variety of annual passes are available locally at the regional office at 4747 W. Vegas Drive. The phone number is 486-5126.

A Nevada State Park Passport Permit entitles the pass holder to unlimited free entry to all Nevada parks for an annual fee of $90. A park-specific permit allows visitors to enter any one state park free of charge for an annual fee of $60. Older Nevada residents get a really good deal on entry, camping and boating fees when they purchase an annual Senior Citizen Permit for Nevada State Parks for $15. This pass is available to residents 65 years old who have lived in the state for five consecutive years. The pass covers camping and boating fees where applicable. It does not cover hook-up fees for recreational vehicles, which cost an extra $10 in a few parks, including Valley of Fire.

Start your visit to Valley of Fire with a stop at the visitor center. Exhibits and information available there provide an introduction to the park, its unique attractions and its fascinating history. A well-stocked bookstore filled with books, maps, games, toys, posters, gifts and souvenirs seems always thronged with visitors. Part of its appeal may be the vending machines for food, snacks and beverages, the only source within the park.

Personnel on duty assist visitors in locating points of interest, trails, and picnicking and camping facilities. The park contains two campgrounds with a total of 73 sites available on a first-come basis. A popular spot for Easter family outings, the park contains five nice picnic areas. Get there early for the best choice.

Margo Bartlett Pesek’s column appears on Sundays.

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