The majestic Spring Mountain Ranch sits just beneath the spectacularly vibrant cliffs of the Spring Mountains, in the same valley as Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. With quite the list of riveting owners—we’re looking at you, Howard Hughes—if the jaw dropping scenery won’t get you here, the history is sure to seal the deal.
EARLY DAYS IN THE SPRING MOUNTAINS
Like many historic locales found throughout the Silver State, some of Nevada’s oldest history traces back to areas early explorers and pioneers were drawn to. In the scorching Mojave Desert heat, many pioneers were not drawn to the Spring Mountains for their spectacular scenery or even shady valleys, but for the water supply. The uncharacteristic bevy of natural cold springs in the area are what initially drew people to the picturesque valley in the 1830s, and interestingly enough, continue to do so to this day.
This lush oasis proved invaluable to exhausted pioneers forging West, following the Spanish Trail. This heavily depended upon pioneer stopover proved to be a reliable place to rest, and stock up on supplies required for the remainder of their journey West.
By the 1870s, the area had attracted James Wilson and George Anderson who had recently acquired a large amount of funds after their ranch was purchased by a former business partner. With deep pockets and serious ambition, WIlson and Anderson took over the property, maintaining the two existing buildings and land. Additionally, James’ wife Annie and her two sons James Jr. and George Jr. occupied the land and expanded the existing cabin on site by the 1870s. Tragedy struck in the early 1880s when Annie mysteriously vanished and is never seen, or heard from again. James also dies in 1906 and passes the ranch onto James Jr. and George Jr., who eventually sell the ranch in 1929.
The next owner of the ranch—Williard George—has even mightier dreams when getting hold of this iconic property. As a big-time fur coat maker for the Hollywood elite, George had plans to purchase the property and turn it into a chinchilla ranch to support his business. Though not difficult to predict, his grand idea eventually failed and the ranch turned hands again, this time to radio-turned-movie star Chet Lauck.
When the Wilson family originally got hold of the property in the 1870s, the blacksmith shop and original expanded cabin were the only structures on site, and considered to rival some of the oldest buildings in the state of Nevada. When Chet Lauck moved on site, he constructed the main house in 1948, which serves State Park Headquarters today. By the 1950s, Spring Mountain Ranch commanded the attention of Hollywood stars—both foreign and domestic—due to its alluring remoteness and exotic beauty.
German movie star Vera Krupp honed in on the property in 1955, after divorcing from coffee guru Alfred Krupp in Germany. With a brand new, immaculately constructed mansion on her hands, Vera was in heaven. Here, she spent her days rockhounding, hosting parties, ranching with the boys, and living life to the fullest in the Spring Mountains until she fell ill and needed to relocated to be closer to adequate medical care. Despite a serious personal interest in selling the property to the Nevada State Parks system in order to preserve the property, the Howard Hughes snapped up the property in 1967.
As if this story couldn’t get any more multi-dimensional, here it goes. Howard Hughes purchased the property to entice his estranged wife, Jean Peters, to move to Las Vegas. Despite having a property tucked under his hat that is sure to sweep anyone off their feet in modern times, this was a failure. Peters had no interest in coming to the then-remote Las Vegas valley. Hughes ultimately left Vegas in 1971, the property was purchased by local car dealership owner Fletcher Jones, and then landed safely under the watchful eye of Nevada State Parks in 1974. What a history, right?
VISITING SPRING MOUNTAIN RANCH STATE PARK TODAY
Skip the crowds at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and head for Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, which offers the same experiences without thousands of people. With six babbling springs on the property, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park owns all water rites, and that alone is worth more than all 520 acres of land and all the buildings put together. Crazy, right? Be sure to take notice of the natural amount of water on the property, which is what makes such a deliciously manicured lawn possible for your enjoyment. Think about it: a lawn in the middle of the Mojave Desert? Not exactly something most people living or visiting in the region can enjoy—at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park, this is arguably the largest, though simplest attraction.
Reserve a large group use amphitheater-style area that is equipped to host 200 people, amazing hiking loops throughout the park, and be sure to swing through the historic Main Ranch House for an even more detailed glimpse of the owners who once lived here. Ask about Living History Programs, Summer Theater, and special programs like “Yoga on the Lawn” or “Paint with a Ranger” offered throughout the year.
ADMISSION AND FEES
Admission to Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is $10.00 per vehicle and $2.00 per bike-in visitor. No camping or overnight visitation is allowed in the park. For the most up to date information on hours, and entry fees, please click here.
From the Las Vegas Strip, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is a mere 45 minutes away, and couldn’t be a more satisfyingly polar opposite experience. Head south on I-15, exiting on Blue Diamond Road for 20 miles. This route will bring you into the Blue Diamond Area, which connects to the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Byway. Make a left hand turn into the park.