The Red Rock Canyon Visitor Guide by Tom Moulin is a resource not to be overlooked if you are visiting Red Rock Canyon. It took me a few years of climbing to learn that I shouldn’t show up at a crag without a decent guidebook if I wanted a decent shot at a good experience. For many crags that is all you should need, some route beta and maybe some brief insights about the geology, history or sensitive land-use issues. Red Rock Canyon on the other hand is a different story, climber or not.
Red Rock Canyon is a federally managed conservation area because of its unique sandstone bluffs and fragile ecosytem. Red Rock’s unique landforms just happen to provide world class climbing, however, the climbing is but a fraction of what Red Rock has to offer. Moulin’s only has two pages dedicated to climbing but it is filled with valuable information for any visitor and should be considered essential equipment while in the Canyon.
Moulin leaves no stone un-turned in his exploration of the Canyon. From addressing little things like the common debate over to the various nick-names, Red Rock vs. Red Rocks, or Sandstone Bluffs, through the history, the biology, the botany and the geology of the area. Moulin’s exploration of the geology of the canyon leads nicely into the Native American history which is in part represented in the Pictograph’s and Petroglyph’s found on the walls of the canyons. Moulin covers European history next and the history of movie making in the canyon last.
Geology and history are just the beginning though. A considerable portion of the book is dedicated to the fossils, plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects of the canyon. These sections are well organized and the full color glossy pages of the guide book make these sections particularly valuable. The other feature that is particularly helpful in full color are the maps. The book is wrought with maps of all sorts. A geologic map, relief maps, a plant communities map, and many hiking maps. The hiking maps are topographical but are not detailed and do not include elevations. The hike details are conveyed in the descriptions, however, I would not rely on the maps in this guide book for anything more than a quick reference.
All in all I think Moulin’s guide book is particularly valuable to climbers and tourists who wish to expand their appreciation for the Conservation Area. After reading this book I can’t wait for my next visit to Red Rock. As a climber I will take a few extra minutes on the way to the crag so I can appreciate some of the other natural wonders of the landscape. As a father I am excited to explore the canyons with my son and search for insects, snakes, and lizards to identify or maybe we’ll see a Bighorn sheep. And my wife will surely want to hike to the waterfall in Icebox canyon. That said, Moulin’s compact yet comprehensive Visitor Guide opened my eyes to the wonders of Red Rock Canyon.
--Tim Page, Southwest and Foreign Programs Coordinator