History of Las Vegas Wash

Las Vegas Wash History

A Spanish trading party, led by Jose Antonio Armijo, travelled from Abiqui, New Mexico, In November, 1829, arriving at Los Angeles in January, 1830. Their scout, Rafael Rivera, went ahead, probably discovering the shorter 50-mile waterless route from the Muddy River to the Vegas spring, as well as the spring-lined route to the Mojave River, or present-day Baker, California. The main party continued down the Virgin River to the Colorado and on to the mouth of Las Vegas Wash. Here they camped until the scouting party returned. Armijo's party was the first to document their journey across southern Nevada and the Las Vegas Valley and, as a result, established the "shorter, more popular Spanish Trail" between Santa Fe and Los Angeles. Their camping spot on the banks of the Colorado is now about 300 feet below the surface of Lake Mead.

In 1858, in a steamboat race against George Johnson, Lieutenant Ives, after disabling his boat at the mouth of Black Canyon, took a rowboat as far as the Las Vegas Wash, which he mistook for the Virgin River.

The need for magnesium for the National Defense Program in World War II created an extraordinary "boom camp" of 12,000 men in 1941. Within a few weeks, four square miles of desert became the bustling city of Basic Magnesium. "Basic" eventually changed its name to Henderson. The industry's output was so great that, by 1944, the Government did not need any more magnesium. The buildings were sold to the State and then turned over.to private owners and, in the 1950's the old equipment was converted. The Industrial Plant began producing C12, caustic soda, DDT, weed killer, guided missile fuel, lime, and titanium metal. The Three Kids Mine, between Henderson and Las Vegas Wash Ranger Station, became one of the major suppliers of manganese in 1942. It has been intermittently active since its discovery in 1917. Most of the mill produce was sold to the General Services Administration. It was not used in Henderson. The mine and mill operated until 1961, and the mill was soon dismantled.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

601 Nevada Way
Boulder City, NV 89005


(702) 293-8990

Contact Us