As We See It

Scenic history: Colorful tales of the people who shaped Red Rock culture

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Seekers, Saints & Scoundrels portrays the people drawn to the mountains and springs long before Red Rock Canyon was a protected recreation area.
Photo: Mona Shield Payne

In the spring of 1959, German heiress Vera Krupp was finishing dinner at her Spring Mountains ranch when robbers forced their way in, stole the 33-carat diamond ring off her hand, tied her up, raided the house then fled into the night. It was a high-profile robbery, and the thieves were eventually caught in another state. The ring was restored, and after Krupp’s death it became the famous engagement ring Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor.

It’s not the usual story that comes to mind when absorbing the extraordinary scenery of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, but the neighborhood, it turns out, is rich with arresting tales.

In Seekers, Saints & Scoundrels: The Colorful Characters of Red Rock Canyon ($18.95), authors weave a fascinating story from 19th-century explorers to the ranchers, trappers, miners, homesteaders, horse thieves, vacationers and Natives who shaped area culture, including the ambitious developers whose controversial grand plans were thwarted—all pieced together through public documents, oral histories and newspapers.

Researched and written by Friends of Red Rock Canyon volunteers, a dedicated group of loyalists monitoring, documenting and preserving the area, the book portrays the people drawn to the mountains and springs long before the land was protected. It unveils the history of the unique town of Blue Diamond, the quarries of Red Rock, the threat of oil drilling in the 1970s and the life story of Bonnie McGaugh, a salt-of-the-earth, Hollywood-born professional ice skater who bought the ranch in the 1950s and turned it into a beloved local attraction.

Seekers, Saints & Scoundrels is a straightforward archive putting 150 years of footprints on a landscape known more for its prehistoric, rather than recent past. And it does so with great affection for the area the Friends of Red Rock have fiercely represented for more than three decades.

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