This Man Discovered Las Vegas-It Wasn’t Bugsy


We want to share with you today one historical discovery that became the first chapter in the Las Vegas story, the Las Vegas we know today. We would be surprised if anyone who reads our postings would know the man that we are writing about. If you do, you get an A+.

First, when we talk about someone discovering Las Vegas, we have to clarify some things. The truth is that no one actually knows who the first person was who came through or occupied what is now Las Vegas.

We do know that over the last couple of thousand years the area was occupied first by Anasazi and Puebloan Indians, and later by the Paiute Indians. There are many ruins of these former residents still surviving today that can be seen on the northern end of Lake Mead. There is a “Lost City” museum, too, that houses artifacts and history about the former Indian populations. Realtown.com says this about these tribes:

Nevada’s “Lost City”, officially known as Pueblo Grande de Nevada is a series of Anasazi Indian ruins situated along the Muddy and Virgin River Valleys in southern Nevada. The site area is located at the northern end of man-made Lake Mead and continues up both valleys for a distance of approximately 30 miles. There are more than a 100 recorded sites along the Muddy River and over 50 recorded sites along the Virgin River. The Lost City was occupied by the Virgin branch of the Anasazi, originally by the Basketmaker people sometime after the first century A.D. and later by the Puebloans from A.D. 700 to 1150. Some of the sites were reoccupied by the Paiute Indians who moved into the area after A.D. 1000. The Basketmakers lived in sub-terrain pit houses that were 10 to 15 feet in diameter and approximately 6 feet deep. They used spears for hunting and their name is derived from their use of baskets as storage vessels. The later Puebloans lived in above ground pueblos (houses made of sticks and adobe). They had the additional knowledge of the bow and arrow and manufactured ceramic vessels for storage and cooking.

If you want to learn more about these ancient residents read it here.

When we talk about the discovery of Las Vegas we are talking about what became the beginning of a 76-year string of events that lead up to the official founding of Las Vegas on May 15, 1905 and its incorporation on March 1911.We also restrict our definition to the first non-Indian to visit the valley.

Ok, now for the reveal. The man was Rafael Rivera. He was a scout for Mexican trader Antonio Armijo. Armijo’s caravan of 60 men and 100 mules was traveling the Old Spanish Trail on the way to California. That original route however, did not go through the Las Vegas area.

Rivera, who was Mexican, diverted from the original trail route and discovered the Las Vegas springs. The water made it a perfect stop in the middle of a barren desert. Without the water Las Vegas probably would not have become what it is today.

Rivera, came into the valley on or around Christmas Day in 1828. He went back and retrieved the Armijo caravan and brought them to the springs where they camped. This was in January 1829.

There are several other candidates that are mentioned as the discoverer of the Las Vegas valley. These include Jedediah Smith and Francisco Garces. However, nine out of ten sources will name Rivera so we will hand him the trophy.




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