To many adventure-seeking individuals, Las Vegas is an oasis of noisy slot machines, bright cocktail lounges and swanky piano bars. But long before Bugsy Siegel and the Golden Nugget, the place now called Las Vegas was an oasis—a grassy meadow surrounded by an inhospitable desert. It was home to the indigenous Paiute tribe who depended on the meadow and its spring for their very survival. In 1521, when Europeans started to discover the lush land of the New World, this grassy meadow was christened New Spain. And more people were about to come. In 1776, merchants created a path between New Mexico and California, and the Old Spanish Trail was up and running. It was not until November 1829, when 60 Spanish merchants strayed from the trail, that the team’s scout discovered the oasis and called it “Las Vegas,” or “the meadows” in Spanish. The name stuck.
Yet the Paiute tribe, led by Chief Tecopa, was hesitant to give up their oasis so easily, attacking John C. Fremont who was sent to survey the Nevada Territory. But when Nevada became America’s 36th state on October 31, 1864, Tecopa realized that they would need to adapt or die. And then the inevitable struck, landowners followed and began owning pieces of the oasis until the spring no longer belonged to the Paiute. Yet, despite all the glitz and glamour that Las Vegas began to accumulate the years passed, the Las Vegas Spring endured.
The Springs Preserve, located about four miles from the Strip, offers a glimpse of what the real Las Vegas oasis looked like before it became the populated by themed hotels. And even with all its bright lights and black-jack tables, Las Vegas is still a natural oasis. — Nicole Ellul