The Las Vegas Springs Preserve, a 180-acre nature park opening in
May, could be called Las Vegas’ first tourist attraction.
Thousands of years before Benjamin “Don’t Call Me Bugsy” Siegel
finished the Flamingo Hotel, the Las Vegas Springs formed an oasis
that called travelers to enjoy the cool water and shady vegetation.
Because it was one of the few places for many miles around where
water bubbled to the surface of the earth, nomadic Native American
tribes have been stopping by for some 5,000 years. In the early
19th century, Spanish traders made the springs a stop on the Old
Spanish Trail between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, N.M.
The area was declared a historic landmark in the ’70s and since
then has been preserved and protected by the Las Vegas Water
District, the guardian of water resources in the valley for 50
When completed, the preserve will be as over-the-top in its own
way as the huge mega-resorts just a stone’s throw away.
Imagine, not a showgirl, slot machine or roulette wheel in sight.
Imagine too, a $166 million project that will not tear down and
replace historic Las Vegas but restore and protect it.
The preserve, located just a couple of miles from the Las Vegas
Strip and Downtown, combines art and nature museums, botanical
gardens, scenic trails and archaeological sites into one huge
family-friendly facility designed to educate and entertain. The
idea is to preserve the early history of the city and to promote
water and energy conservation, said Jesse Davis, spokesperson for
the water district.
The site is part of a working water storage and distribution
system that contains wells and storage tanks that supply most of
the water for the Downtown Las Vegas area, Davis said.
“This is also an historic landmark so we couldn’t just come in
here and put buildings anywhere,” he said pointing out that the
main parking lot is located on top of one of the huge water tanks.
The waterworks will become one of the exhibits. Visitors can view
the water pump station and see how water is delivered to the city.
That’s probably one of the least colorful of the many exhibits
First and foremost there’s the huge visitor’s center and Origen
Galleries. The center will incorporate an in-the-round movie
theater, a children’s museum, an art gallery and more. Among many
interactive displays is one that simulates a flash flood and
another that demonstrates the building of Hoover Dam.
The guest services center will house an upscale restaurant with a
spectacular view of the Las Vegas Strip and a massive gift shop.
The Desert Living Center is a poster child for water- and
energy-smart living and development. A building made of hay bales,
partially cooled by evaporative towers and partially lit by
sunlight will house classroom, meeting and conference space.
Outside will be an eight-acre botanical garden featuring hundreds
of desert plants, a children’s play area and an amphitheater
seating 2,000 for concerts, plays and other cultural programs. The
scene is set by manufactured rock formations molded and painted to
recall the colorful sandstone formations in nearby Red Rock Canyon
and Valley of Fire.
Beyond the new development is a network of 2 ½ miles of walking
trails that wind through historic sites and archaeological digs
where artifacts dating back thousands of years have been found. The
ruins of ancient buildings are still located on the site including
a Native American pit house that dates back 1,200 years. The trails
will also border the cienega, a desert wetland area that replicates
the natural pool once formed by the springs. The area has already
seen the return of desert birds and animals that haven’t been seen
in the city for many years, Davis said.
When the park opens in May, one important component will still be
under construction. The Nevada State Museum and Historical Society
will be relocated to the site in a new $21 million facility. The
current museum, located a few miles away, has for years been a
local’s favorite but has out-grown its long-time home.
Davis said the preserve will offer catering for meetings and
events, group tours in addition to full-service wedding planning
services. Group, meeting and wedding packages are currently being
developed. No decisions have been made so far on travel agent
commissions, Davis said.
The preserve is located at the corner of Alta Drive and Valley
View Boulevard, just off Interstate 95, west of Downtown Las
Las Vegas Springs Preserve