Many people head to Nevada with dreams of winning a huge jackpot on the Las Vegas Strip, but the city might not even exist if it was not for the actions of one Mexican merchant. Vegas Off Road Tours presents the history of the Old Spanish Trails.
All Roads Lead to California
Antonio Armijo was a visionary who had different dreams of striking it rich when he put together a large caravan with 100 mules and 60 men to blaze the trail that would eventually become instrumental in the creation of Las Vegas. His team set out in 1829, 35 years before Nevada was admitted into the Union, when the west was still wild, and there were no detailed maps in existence.
Armijo’s group of adventurers traveled from 1829 to 1830, along a course that would eventually become known as the Old Spanish Trail, with the sole intention of trading woven wool in California. This one decision was responsible for launching the commerce trade throughout the Southwest. Certainly all of the celebrities in Beverly Hills, who love purchasing the finest items from around the world on Rodeo Drive, owe Armijo a debt of gratitude for bringing consumerism to this section of the country.
The Trail’s History in Las Vegas
Harsh desert conditions in the Southwest caused Armijo to take a route that was extremely crooked and long. Fortunately for Las Vegas’ future residents and visitors, this meant that the caravan went south of Death Valley and steered clear of the most inhospitable regions of the Mojave Desert.
This route makes the trail look completely nonsensical from an aerial view, but it was actually perfect for all of the land breaking projects that would eventually happen, because Armijo and his men followed a series of springs and streams. These water sources would make the 135 miles of Southern Nevada the trail cuts across prime real estate just a few decades later. Fittingly, some of the most expensive properties in modern day Las Vegas are within the guarded gates of the Southwest area’s Spanish Trails subdivision.
One Trail, Many Explorers
Although Armijo helped the trail become a significant piece of Southwestern history, he was not the first person to explore the convoluted path. In fact, the total landmass that the Old Spanish Trail covers is approximately 1,200 miles, and it allowed people to travel from Santa Fe, New Mexico, all the way to Los Angeles, California. It is known that Spanish explorers were among the first to explore the trail in the late 1500s, and several sections of the route were also used by Native American tribes.
Although it is hard to believe today, it once took an extensive amount of time to take the trail through what would eventually be known as six different states: New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California. In today’s world, it is possible to drive or fly between these states safely and quickly, but back then, explorers who took off on these trailblazing trips risked their lives to change their portion of the world.
Following the Water Sources
There are many areas along the Old Spanish Trail, including towns which sprouted up that are now notable for other reasons. For example, the route beings in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and passes the San Juan Mountains in Colorado. Next, it enters Utah and winds through several modern cities, including Monticello, Moab and Green River. The trail follows multiple rivers in this area, and it enters Nevada near the Muddy River.
Unfortunately for Armijo’s team, the next 55 miles were mostly barren and contained no water sources, however, springs were found in Las Vegas which helped them continue their long and winding road. After leaving Las Vegas, they were usually able to find water once each day trekking through the Mojave Desert, but conditions did improve near the end of the journey, once they had crossed into California.
The Path of Least Resistance
It is interesting to speculate on the changes that would have impacted Nevada without this historical trail having been blazed, especially in the Las Vegas region including the town of Goodsprings. Avoiding some of the harsher areas made the land more valuable, and it helped the state build viable cities.
This in turn led to areas becoming accessible that would end up being highly prized by miners, other pioneers and, eventually, gamblers.
It would be easy to come to the conclusion that Armijo is one of the main reasons that Nevada became a notable place on the map. His continual contributions to U.S. culture can be seen every day in the tourism, consumerism and gambling that enables Las Vegas to be such a profitable city.
Your Las Vegas ATV tour will pass through parts of the old Spanish Trail. Perhaps the good fortune of the Old Spanish Trails will will rub off during your next trip to Las Vegas. When you hit the jackpot on a shiny slot machine, you might want to clink beers with your partner and offer a toast to Armijo and his caravan!