07-Apr-2003 -- I, Joseph Kerski, Geographer serving at the US Geological
Survey in Denver Colorado, visited Latitude 36 degrees North, Longitude 115 degrees West in suburban Las Vegas, Nevada USA. As I was preparing to teach GPS and Geographic
Information Systems for teachers at the annual meeting of the Colorado Council for the Social Studies, I considered a confluence visit to be the perfect prelude to this
An important theme in the social studies, geography, and the US Geological Survey is examining the Earth as a changing planet. Clark County, Nevada, where the confluence is located, has increased from 273,000 people in 1970 to 1.375 million in 2000, and for much of that time, it was the fastest growing county in the United States in terms of the number of residents added each year. This confluence, therefore, is a perfect illustration of landscape change modified by human activity. The site is rapidly urbanizing to the east, south, and north of the site. The only place safe from the bulldozers at present is the area to the west, and that is only because of the steepness of the terrain. For Sale signs abound. The transformation of the desert is blatant--on my right as I approached was a gated subdivision with backyard swimming pools, grass, and palm trees, while on my left was rock and dirt. Even during the short time that confluence visitors have been writing narratives and photographing at this location, the area has changed quite a bit. From a geographer's perspective, it would be interesting to
examine these changes in the past two years and into the future based on the confluence reports. One can imagine a grim future when this confluence is inaccessible, part of a
backyard of a "home with a view" in a gated housing development.
In Henderson, I began to drive west on Mission Avenue, but because of the construction and road closed signs, made a U-turn and parked at the Shell Gas Station at the traffic light. I thought that someone on foot would be less conspicuous to the construction employees operating huge earth moving pieces of equipment. Fortunately, it turned out that I was right. By walking due west up the road, and then turning southwest to walk behind an enormous hill of gravel being excavated, I was able to walk unnoticed. I traversed several gullies and steep slopes before making the final ascent to the confluence. I marveled at the differences between this site and the other site I had made along latitude 36 North, 10 degrees to the east of this one.
The confluence lies on a south side of a small mountain, about 4/5 of the way to the top. While the mountain is mostly unvegetated, with loose talus and 3-meter boulders, I noticed a beautiful pink blossom on the end of a prickly pear cactus, as well as cholla and desert grasses. Despite its proximity to the urbanizing area of Henderson, I was pleased to find little trash. At the site, I discovered the rock cairn left by previous visitors, which turned out to be, for a while, the precise spot indicated by my GPS receiver as well. The proximity of the boulders and the fact that I was perched on the side of the mountain made
for a difficult time "zeroing out" the GPS unit. The temperature was a pleasant 75 degrees F, but the wind blew away my canvas case housing my GPS receiver. Perhaps a
future visitor will find it. I saw no wildlife during my visit; they are probably fleeing the construction site for more peaceful habitats.