The Spring Mountain Range, west of Las Vegas, is home to the beautiful Spring Mountain Ranch State Park.
Spring Mountain Ranch State Park just doesn’t seem to be in southern Nevada.
In fact, it is a virtual oasis – and has been for more than a century – with a spring-fed stream, lush, green meadow fields and tall shade trees.
The park is 15 miles west of downtown Las Vegas on West Charleston Boulevard at the base of the colorfully banded Wilson Cliffs, which are part of the Red Rock Canyon Area.
In addition to being one of the most scenic locations in the Las Vegas area, the ranch predates the founding of the state of Nevada. In the mid-1830s, a campsite was built on the stream that meanders from the nearby mountains.
The availability of drinking water and grass made the place attractive to travelers on the Old Spanish Trail that ran through southern Nevada. Historians also note that the site was a popular hiding place for outlaws who preyed on pack trains.
In 1864, the area was claimed by an outlaw named Bill Williams who kept horses on the property. In the mid-1870s, James Wilson and his partner George Anderson applied for legal ownership of the property they named Sand Stone Ranch.
Anderson left in the early 1880s and Wilson took control of the property and adopted and raised Anderson’s two sons. The two, Jim Wilson Jr. and Tweed, inherited the ranch after their stepfather died in 1906.
The two ran the ranch for many years before selling it in 1929 to Willard George, a family friend who allowed them to live on the ranch until their deaths. They are buried with their adoptive father in a small cemetery on the property.
George began developing the ranch by adding a chinchilla farm (he was a Hollywood furrier by profession) as well as cattle. In 1944, George leased the ranch to actor Chester Lauck (who played “Lum” on the popular radio show “Lum and Abner”), the ranch’s first prominent owner.
Lauck bought the property directly in 1948 and built an impressive New England-style sandstone and redwood ranch house that is still standing and open to tours.
Lauck, called “Bar Nothing Ranch”, used the ranch as a vacation spot and summer camp for boys while raising cattle in the country.
In 1955 Lauck sold the ranch property to Vera Krupp, wife of the German ammunition manufacturer Alfried Krupp. Mrs. Krupp added a swimming pool and expanded the house and the cattle farm.
Ms. Krupp, who made the ranch her primary residence, renamed it Spring Mountain Ranch. The ranch, with its well-tended meadows and the cool shade of the heat of southern Nevada, was a popular retreat for Mrs. Krupp’s prominent friends.
The ranch was sold to Hughes Tool Co. in 1967, which was part of the Howard Hughes Empire. While Hughes never lived on the ranch, it served as a kind of executive retreat at his Summa Corp.
In 1972 the property was bought by Fletcher Jones and William Murphy, two southern Nevada businessmen, who announced plans to build a large housing estate. The public outcry led to the ranch being sold to the Nevada Division of State Parks in 1974.
The ranch remains one of the most beautiful places in southern Nevada. The drive on the main road takes you through a small forest of Joshua trees and yuccas before the park appears to erupt around you like a lush, green mirage.
The main house is open for self-guided tours when the park is open. The park opening times vary depending on the season. Visit parks.nv.gov/parks/spring-mountain-ranch for the latest information.
In addition, guided tours through the 520 hectares are offered by appointment. These include visits to the Old Reservoir, Wilson Family Cemetery, the board and slat hut from the 1880s, an 1864 stone hut, a blacksmith shop, and other ranch buildings.
The park also offers living history programs with guides, in costume, demonstrations of ranch life, and reenactments of historical events. The park is also a popular place for outdoor concerts in the spring and summer months.
Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada so special.