LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — As the Las Vegas Valley continues to evolve and expand over the years, there is a place where everything started, and that's the Springs Preserve.
"We like to think of the Springs Preserve as the birthplace of Las Vegas. We talk about the Meadows being the birthplace of Las Vegas, and these are the Meadows," said Nathan Harper, Springs Preserve archaeologist.
The preserve is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Las Vegas and is located on Valley View Boulevard near Alta Drive.
The 180-acres is dedicated to nature walks, displays, education and exploration.
"We have a lot of history here, a lot of natural beauty and wildlife," Harper said. "I always like to describe this place as a day and a half. There is enough here to see that will take about a day and a half to explore."
The preserve is home to exhibits, desert landscapes, hiking trails and is an excellent place for families to learn and enjoy our history without even having to leave town.
"There is so much to check out here; it's a great place to explore. And if you are looking at a place to go hiking and see some natural desert beauty, you don't have to drive outside of town—we are just three miles from the heart of the city," Harper said.
Visitors will also notice the greenery on display in the botanical garden. Even us locals can take in and enjoy while learning how to protect our environment.
"We have about 8 acres of botanical gardens. It features the largest cactus and succulent garden collection in North America," Harper said. "You need to learn how to plant your yard or your garden sustainably; this is the best place to learn how to do that. You can make it beautiful and sustainable at the same time."
The Springs Preserve has something for everyone to explore whether you're interested in green living, desert life, or the Las Vegas valley's history inside and out.
"There is tons of stuff to see. Not only on our campus but also on our nature trails," Harper said. "We are lucky to have such a long history here with this place being special. It's special to people and animals. So, when you go walk on our trails, you get to walk underneath cottonwoods that are over 100 years old along with walking along the Las Vegas creek. You can also visit our picnic area where we have ponds with threatened and endangered fish and frogs living there who we help protect."
And the preserve is owned and operated by the Las Vegas Valley Water District, where sustainability and water conservation have always been an important topic, with us calling the Mohave Desert home.
"Conservation is at the heart of everything we do here at the Springs Preserve. One of the main reasons we are here is to teach people how to live sustainability in the Mohave Desert. And also how to conserve water in the desert," Harper said. "We talk about water in all of its aspects: Water coming from the ground, falling out of the sky or water rushing down a canyon. We talk about all of the natural history and environment in Las Vegas."
A Boomtown 1905 exhibit is also available to visitors, including a changing Origen Museum and a Nevada State Museum.
"One of our other historical offers here is the Boomtown 1905 exhibit. It's a reconstructed streetscape of what Las Vegas would look like during that time," Harper said. "Seasonally, we have our butterfly house. It's not open in the winter with them sleeping but will return in the spring. "We also have the Southern Branch of the Nevada State Museum, where you can learn about the entire history of the state of Nevada."
The Springs Preserve is currently open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Monday, with ticket prices starting at around $5 for children. And it's a must-visit for all of us who are calling Southern Nevada home.
"For the longest time, we've been told that we have imploded all of history, but really in the past decade, historical preservation has really become a major part of Las Vegas' identity. And an important part of Las Vegas culture," Harper said.