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New Book Explores Hidden History Of Red Rock Canyon


Red Rock Canyon
Bureau of Land Management

A new book looks at the hidden history of Red Rock Canyon

“Seekers, Saints, and Scoundrels” could be the title of a book about any part of Nevada.

But the focus of this book is on a part of our state that has a well-known name and a little-known past.

Red Rock Canyon is a place of beauty, a place to hike, climb and take in the beauty of the Mojave Desert.

“Seekers, Saints and Scoundrels” delves into the history behind this urban oasis, going back to 1840.

Chuck Williams with Friends of Red Rock Canyon told KNPR's State of Nevada that the conservation area actually takes in a much larger section than most people realize.

The area is actually about 200,000 acres. It is about 42 miles from north to south and is between five and 10 miles wide. It runs all the way from State Route 160, which is the road from Las Vegas to Pahrump, to Lee Canyon Road on Mt. Charleston. 

Williams and the other authors of the book became interested in learning more about the area after researching how Native Americans used it. 

They wanted to look at the time before it became a conservation area. 

Sharon Schaff authored one of the chapters. She looked at the role miners and mining played. She said it was the people that interested her. 

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"They were fascinating, fascinating people that were in the area a long time ago and helped make it what it is," Schaff said.

Bonnie Levinson is one of those interesting people. She is the real 'Bonnie' behind Bonnie Springs Ranch. Levinson came to Southern Nevada from California, looking for a change. She was a professional skater, who ended up working with her husband to build up the ranch into the restaurant, bar, hotel and petting zoo locals love today.

There is also the series of people who occupied and built up Springs Mountain Ranch. The ranch was owned by several different people, including Howard Hughes. 

At one point, Fletcher Jones, of car dealership fame, and a partner owned it. They wanted to develop a community with houses, condos and a golf course, but could not get the zoning changed for it, according to Schaff. In the end, the ranch was sold to the state to be part of the park.

An area of the park that despite continued efforts has not been well preserved are limestone caves that at one time were filled with stalagmites and stalactites.

The Bureau of Land Management tried to keep people out, but every barrier that was put up was torn down, and in one case, even blown up. 

Now, many of the formations are broken, the ground is littered with trash and the walls are covered in graffiti. 

"It's a tragedy. It's too bad that it happened," Williams said.

There are a lot more mysteries to be solved in the area, including a mine that neither the state nor the federal government has a record of and foundations to homes that also have no record. 


Chuck Williams, president, Friends of Red Rock Canyon; Sharon Schaff, editor, "Seekers, Saints, and Scoundrels"

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