Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park

Facilities & Amenities
  • Visitor Center
  • Historic Sites

William Bringhurst and 29 fellow Mormon missionaries built an adobe fort (complete with a post office) on the side of Las Vegas Creek in June, 1855. That first settlement was built here because Las Vegas Creek offered the only steady flow of water for many miles around. And even then, the creek only flowed above ground for a few miles before sinking back into the desert sands. For thousands of years, the Paiutes and other Native American tribes had come here for the water and the grassy meadows around the creek. This was also a regular stop on the Old Spanish Trail to California.

The Mormon group built a 150-foot square adobe fort and diverted the creek water for irrigating fields and orchards. Shortly after they arrived, someone discovered lead in the mountains to the southwest and the community built a smelter to service that business. However, after only 2 years, they had a falling out between two of the elders and the community collapsed.

In 1865, the property was sold to Octavious Gass, a prospector who'd done well in the mineral strikes in Eldorado Canyon. Gass bought out several other homesteaders in the area and built a large-scale cattle operation here. Then in 1881 he defaulted on the mortgage and the property passed to Helen and Archibald Stewart. Archibald was killed in a gunfight in 1884 but with the help of family and friends, Helen continued to operate the ranch. She finally sold the property (and the water rights) to the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad in 1902. The railroad tracks finally reached Las Vegas in 1905 and the first surveys of the metropolitan area we know now got started. One of the first things the new city did was to divert the outflow from the Las Vegas Springs into the city water system, and Las Vegas Creek dried up.

Of the original buildings, only the adobe structure nearest to the creek bed is still standing. Octavious Gass used parts of the foundation and walls of the larger fort in the construction of his ranch house. Mrs. Stewart occupied the ranch house until she sold the ranch to the railroad. The US Bureau of Reclamation leased and renovated the building in 1929 while they were building the Hoover Dam. Some of these buildings were demolished in 1966 and most of what you see today has been reconstructed since then.

Today, part of that old adobe fort has been somewhat refurbished and now sits on the corner of Washington Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard in downtown Las Vegas. Over time, Nevada State Parks intends to re-create many of the historic features of that original settlement and build a full-scale visitor center (the present visitor center is inside a rebuilt part of the old adobe fort). The primary focus of all planned development of this park revolves around the historic interpretation and reconstruction of those early days of Las Vegas.

Today, the park is usually open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.

Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort State Historic Park
Photos courtesy of Nevada State Parks