Just 12 miles west of Las Vegas, the colorful, bare sandstone of the aptly named Rainbow Mountain Wilderness emerges from the valley floor, standing guard over the surrounding pinyon-juniper forest and Mojave Desert scrub below. Its sheer, towering red and white cliffs are cut by rugged, narrow, twisting canyons lined with willow, ash, and hackberry trees.
Encompassing 24,997 acres, this desert wonderland dominates the western view of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and is managed jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
With springs, sandstone ‘pothole’ water tanks, and an elevation range of 3,000 feet, topping out at the 7,070-foot summit of Mount Wilson, the wilderness supports a wide variety of wildlife and unique plant communities. Deep, cool canyons host chain ferns as much as six feet tall and ponderosa pines, which usually thrive at higher elevations like the rocky outcrops further up the mountainsides.
Desert bighorn sheep, mountain lion, bobcats, mule deer, coyote, foxes, bats, squirrels, and numerous bird species also make their home in the Rainbow Mountain Wilderness.
Woodwardia virginica is in the family Blechnaceae. Commonly known as the Virginia chain fern, it is found throughout eastern North America from Florida to Nova Scotia. Virginia chain fern grows in swampy and boggy habitats where it can form dense populations due to its spreading rhizomes. This species is also cultivated as an ornamental fern for use in the landscape, thriving best in areas with constant moisture and partial shade.