Getting Off the Road

Photo By: Joe McDonald /

Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Desert National Wildlife Refuge

Getting Off the Road

By . JOE | June 2014
Updated: June 2020


Points of Interest

Getting Off the Road | . JOE

I’m a landscape photographer and love getting out of the work world that surrounds “the Strip”. We Nevadan’s live in such a wonderful variety of areas that include: three deserts with elevations ranging from 0 to 12,000 feet, bright city lights to almost zero light polluted skies, petroglyph covered cayons, and magical areas that awaken spiritual emotion. Oh yeah, and we have neon in a couple places.

Recently, I have been exploring the National Wildlife Refuge north of Las Vegas—Desert National Complex—for the seemingly untouched Joe May Canyon, Cow Camp’s waterfall, and the Hidden Forest and ranger’s cabin in Dead Man’s Canyon. Then, just across US-95, I can venture into wild horse lands where the stallions battle for the attention of mares, and 2-3 month old colts and fillies suckle while their mother’s graze just yards from the roadside. Some see the daytime skies as colorless. Some don’t even know that we live in a valley surrounded by mountains. We have snow above 8,000 feet up until late May, and even down to the 4,000 foot elevation mark in winter.

In the summer I like to stay out of the heat of mid-day, so I head to the canyons to catch the corona of sunrise. This past summer Saturday it was over 100 degrees at noon, but at sunrise, standing at 8,000 feet elevation, it had dropped to 63 degrees and I suddenly questioned my wardrobe choice.

But, the glory of a sunrise corona as it illuminates the popcorn clouds over the Sheep Range, with alluvial fans bathed in the blue rays of the high desert, and dry lake beds peeking through the valleys is what makes it all worth it, temperature change or not. Seeing things like the junipers in bloom, ripe with berries, or the ground squirrels and jackrabbits scurrying about is what makes me feel alive. This is the time of large wildlife: horses, burros, deer and antelope graze the Joshua Tree forest floor of Kyle Canyon, or the high deserts of Cold Creek where sage fills the air with its sweet smell.

To all that have never ventured out past the asphalt end, I say “Get off the road” you will love it. #NVWildlife


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