For most of the last 600 million or so years, the Red Rock
area was part of a deep ocean basin. Approximately 225 million years ago, movements of the earths crust caused this sea-bed to rise slowly. When some of the sea-bed sediments were
exposed to the atmosphere, they began to oxidize. This resulted in the red and orange colored rocks that are seen today.
As the years wore on, this area became part of a broad plain. Streams that crossed this plain deposited sand, mud and debris. Some of that debris was trees and logs. Eventually the sand and mud covered the logs. Minerals from ground water replaced the organic substances in the logs forming petrified wood. This process created the petrified logs found at the base of the Wilson Cliffs in Red Rock.
By around 180 million years ago, this area had completely changed once
more. By then, it had become part of a large desert with shifting red
sands and huge dune fields. These sand dunes left their marks in the rocks
and cliffs. Visitors today can see evidence of the fossilized dunes preserved in the
Beginning approximately 65 million years ago, during a phase of the
the earths crust was again changing this area. A large system of thrust
faults extending south and as far north as Canada developed. Thrust faults
result in some rather unusual effects. This particular thrust fault
created one of the most interesting features of Red Rock Canyon, the Keystone Thrust. Here older layers of rock
were 'thrust' over younger layers of rock. Geologically this is unusual.
Visually, it is striking.
More recently, the ancient Anasazi left their mark on some of the rock
faces in the form of petroglyphs. Unfortunately due to vandalism, many of
Petroglyph areas are unmarked and their locations are kept secret. These
same Anasazi also left their petroglyphs in the
of Fire. However the petroglyphs in Red Rock Canyon are some what
different in content than those at the Valley of Fire.