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Grapevine Canyon is a true desert oasis

Grapevine Canyon near Laughlin is a natural oasis and historic petroglyph site.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons |

Despite appearances, Nevada’s desert landscape can be filled with life. A good example of this is Grapevine Canyon, located about eight miles northwest of Laughlin. The canyon boasts a waterfall and some of the most impressive petroglyphs in the region.

To reach Grapevine Canyon, head west from Laughlin on State Route 163 for about six miles. Turn right on a marked dirt road (there is a Bureau of Land Management sign there) and follow the signs for two miles to the canyon.

The road to the canyon ends at a trailhead, where you can park your car or truck (motorized vehicles are prohibited from this point) From here, you walk about a half mile on a flat trail to the mouth of the canyon.

The trail runs somewhat parallel to a wall of expressive sandstone rocks, about an eighth of a mile to the left, and a dry creek bed, immediately on the right. The rocks have been pocked and shaped into interesting shapes, a few of which bear a remarkable resemblance to contemporary impressionist sculptures.

Along the way, you pass through thick sagebrush, a few Joshua trees, mesquite bushes and, closer to the rocks, a handful of beautiful barrel cactus plants.

The trail reaches a narrow passage in the rocks and it is here that you finally begin to experience the beauty of Grapevine Canyon.

A small stream of water pours through the canyon opening and spills into the creek bed, where it evaporates a few hundred yards beyond. And just ahead, you can hear the unmistakable sounds of a gurgling creek, its precious water splashing down and over several rock ledges in a small series of waterfalls.

More importantly, this is also the site of clusters of ancient petroglyphs carved into the surrounding rocks. This site has been described as the largest concentration of petroglyphs in Southern Nevada.

In fact, some almost seem to have been drawn on top of others. The images included geometric patterns (rounded and square shapes) as well as small drawings of bighorn sheep and stick figures apparently representing humans.

The setting suggests why such a great number of petroglyphs, which are prehistoric Native American rock carvings, are found here. Perhaps hunters hid in these rocks awaiting deer, sheep and other game attracted to the canyon by the presence of fresh water.

Naturally, the wait was probably long, and one can imagine these people carving various symbols—perhaps, for good luck—into the sandstone while waiting for a meal to wander along.

The trail passes through the canyon mouth and passes the walls of petroglyphs, then heads up into the canyon. Above, you can find a nice stream of water tumbling down the rocks as well as several thick patches of wild grapes (hence the canyon’s name).

The canyon is located in the Newberry Mountains, just south of Spirit Mountain an important religious site for the local Indian people.

According to the National Parks Service, Spirit Mountain plays a role in the mythology of the Mohave and Hualapai tribes, who believe it is their spiritual birthplace.

Spirit Mountain the surrounding canyons have been named as Traditional Cultural Property and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information about Grapevine Canyon contact the Laughlin Chamber of Commerce, 702-298-2214.

Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.