The Springs Preserve is a new $250 million Nature and Learning facility just a few miles from downtown Las Vegas. It sits on the site that gave Las Vegas it's name......in Spanish.....'The Meadows'. Yes, in the middle of the desert were artesian springs, and why early Indian settlers inhabited the valley. Because of the water it also became an important stop for the Spanish Trail, that had several routes between Santa Fe and Los Angeles, but all converged to pass through the Vegas Valley.
Later these springs would become a necessity for another important form of transportation.....the railroads. The 'iron horses' need for water is also what led to the town of Las Vegas, with the original depot located where the Union Plaza Casino Hotel stands today at the end of the Fremont Street Experience. The railroad bought the land for a water stop, then auctioned some of it off in 1905.
It may sound like a lot of history, but that is also what the Springs Preserve is about. The valley began as an ancient sea bed, which is hard to imagine today. There are many fossils to be found in the area, but now you can see them without having to go digging in the desert. Next year, the Nevada State museum will open it's new facility on the site, and will include not only the fossils and displays of early sea creatures, but the dinosaurs that roamed here after the water subsided.
Other exhibits include hands on and interactive visual demonstrations of desert living. Even a 'flash flood' simulation right before your eyes, that shows why this compacted sea floor doesn't absorb water very quickly. There are also native animal exhibits and 8 acres of desert demonstration gardens that included both existing and 'importable' vegetation that can grow here. The springtime is amazing, with incredible blooms on plants like cactus, that you wouldn't dream possible.
Of course they also include the human factor of the various settlers of the region. Ancient petroglyphs (drawings) that can be found in the other natural areas of the region are among the signs of early civilization. The Anasazi tribe settled here 2300 years ago, but mysteriously vanished about 950 AD. They were followed by the Paiute tribe some years later, then Spanish, Mormons and eventual those from all walks of life, especially when seeking jobs at Hoover dam during the great depression. An interesting evolution for a city that has become a true international 'melting pot', and the largest city grown in the 20th century.
This amazing facility also includes an outdoor amphitheater combining education with entertainment in a natural environment. Check it out here.