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Archaeoastronomy


Equinox Observations at Atlatl Rock


Valley of Fire State Park, NV, USA

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The Atlatl Rock Site


Atlatl Rock is one of the many beautiful sites in the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada, USA. The state park is located about 90 km northeast of Las Vegas (55 miles; 1 hour drive on I 15 N, exit 75).

The petroglyphs of interest are on the left (south) side of a straight, smooth rock wall that is almost perfectly facing east with an offset of only about five degrees (azimuth 85 degrees). This archaeoastronomy site is outstanding as it is easily accessible: although the petroglyphs at Atlatl Rock important for this investigation are at an estimated height of about 20 meters above ground level, no climbing on rocks is necessary, not even the 84 steps of the stairs leading to the observation platform have to be climbed as the petroglyphs including the markers and the shadow are visible from the level of the parking lot.
The facilities of the State Park Visitor Center are not far away.

There are many more petroglyphs in the vicinity of Atlatl Rock which have been engraved mostly in rocks covered with deep black desert varnish. Atlatl Rock however is almost red!

These petroglyphes are estimated to be more than 4000 years old! Respect their antiquity. Help preserve them!
Do not climb on, touch or deface the rock.


Atlatl Rock Coordinates:

Google Maps LatLong.net
Longitude Latitude Elevation Longitude Latitude Elevation
114°33' 03.23"   W 36°25' 25.39"   N 686 m (2250 ft)
      (|T19|)
114°33' 02"   W 36°25' 23"   N 686 m (2250 ft)
      (|T19|)
-114.5509 deg    (W) 36.4237 deg    (N) -114.5505 deg    (W) 36.4231 deg    (N)
7h 38m 12.2s   W   7h 38m 12.1s   W  


Coordinates used in NOAA Solar Calculator (|T07|):   latitude 36.423019 deg  (N) ,   longitude -114.55051 deg  (W)


Valey of Fire State Park Map:

SP Map
( see here for larger map at the State Park website )



Aerial photograph of the Valley of Fire and the Atlatl Rock area:

aerial photograph   aerial photograph
(Credit: G. Rank;   picture taken 5 September 2012 during a transcontinental flight passing south of the area)



Atlatl Rock as seen from east:
Atlatl Rock Panorama 2011
24 June 2011; ~7:00 a.m. PDT, ~30 minutes after sunrise;   location of the petroglypes indicated;   view from main road (VoF Hwy 169);
(click on the pictures twice to see full resolution!)


Atlatl Rock as seen from north-northeast:
Atlatl Rock Panorama 2010
21 September 2010; ~7:00 a.m. PDT, ~30 minutes after sunrise;   location of the petroglypes indicated;
(click on the pictures twice to see full resolution!)

Atlatl Rock Info
Atlatl Rock description at the parking lot (2008).
Atlatl Rock Info
Atlatl Rock information at the platform (2010).

The site of the Atlatl petroglyps:

view from north-northeast (parking lot)
at 6:51 a.m. PDT on 21 September 2010 (20 minutes after sunrise)

view from east
at 9:25 a.m. PDT on 21 September 2010

view of the platform from northeast near the base of the stairs
at 11:30 a.m. PDT on 12 September 2008

view of the petroglyps from the platform
at 11:31 a.m. PDT on 12 September 2008


Panoramic view from the platform at Atlatl Rock from north (left) to south (right) looking towards east (center):
Atlatl Rock Panorama 2011
(24 June 2011; ~11:45 a.m. PDT;   click twice on the picture for full resolution)


Sunrise locations:
near summer solstice
on 20/21 June
each year
Az = ~ 63 deg
near the equinoxes
on 20/21 March and 22/23 September
each year
Az = 90 deg (east)
near winter solstice
on 21/22 December each year
(predicted, not observed)
Az = ~ 117 deg
sunrise positions
(click twice on the picture for full resolution)
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last update 2022-09-27  
by Helmut Steinle