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Maps: Putting Las Vegas on the Map

  Introduction | The West | The Region | The City | The Strip

Nevada & Neighbors Old Spanish Trail (1829) Mormon expedition and settlement (1855) San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad (1905) Highway 91 (1930s)

As explorers and settlers moved westward throughout the American continent, Utah and California became influential neighbors to the Nevada territory. From dusty mule trails, to iron rails, to hot asphalt -- new routes have been surveyed, graded, and paved in order to pass goods and people between California and inner territories. Las Vegas blossomed as a key stopping point on the route, benefiting from three key things: location, location, location.

1 Old Spanish Trail (1829)

Old Spanish Trail (1829) In the winter of 1829, New Mexican traders moved through Nevada on mule trails, carving out the Old Spanish Trail to Southern California. They stopped at a valley of marshy plains and meadows, encountering nomadic Paiute tribes who also sought out the lush environs.

2 Mormon expedition and settlement (1855)

Mormon expedition and settlement (1855) William Bringhurst led thirty Mormons from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas in 1855 to establish a mission between Utah and San Bernardino, California, which the Mormons had settled in 1851. Like the Spanish traders before them, they chose the spot along the Old Spanish Trail and followed a route mapped out by Captain John C. Fremont of the U.S. Army Topographical Corps.

The Mormons built a 150 square foot adobe fort and established relations with the local Paiutes. But after three difficult years, Brigham Young ordered the Mormons to abandon the settlement and return to Utah.

3 San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad (1905)

San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad (1905) On August 21, 1900, officials of the Los Angeles Terminal Railway announced that Montana mining magnate William Clark had acquired an interest in their company and would begin building a railroad to Salt Lake City, following the route of the Old Spanish Trail. Clark was not alone, the Union Pacific railroad also planned to run a rail line over the same route. The enterprising Clark, who secured a seat on the U.S. Senate in 1901, settled with the competing Union Pacific Railroad in 1903 and their united efforts resumed. Clark spotted the potential in Las Vegas as key stop on the route and personally oversaw the town site auction in 1905.

4 Highway 91 (1930s)

Highway 91 (1930s) In 1929 California approved financing of $800,000 to pave the Los Angeles Highway (Highway 91) from San Bernardino to the Nevada state line, in order to provide easier access to Las Vegas and the Boulder Dam project. The approximately 300 mile roadway cut through the Mojave Desert from Los Angeles, entering Las Vegas from the south. In the 1940s casino owners built up the final stretch of the highway into the city and it soon became known as "The Strip."

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