Discovering the wonders of Tule Springs
Tule reeds slowly wave in the gentle breeze. Large geese float on the calm waters of a spring-fed lake. It’s easy to see why the first Nevadans would have been attracted to the Tule Springs area in Southern Nevada.
At Tule Springs, located in Floyd Lamb Park, archaeologists have discovered evidence of man having lived in the region about 10,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest sites of human habitation in the United States.
The springs are located 10 miles northwest of Las Vegas, via U.S. Highway 95 and Durango Drive and is clearly marked from the highway.
Starting in 1933, archaeologists have uncovered fossil remains at Tule Springs that indicate that the water spot was once frequented by large mammals such as mammoths, bison, horses, camels and giant sloths.
In 1962, an extensive excavation revealed that humans used the site about 10,000 to 11,000 years ago, when the entire Southern Nevada region was much cooler and wetter than it is today.
Additionally, the evidence indicated that those early inhabitants were more advanced than scientists had thought. Scientists have found prehistoric hearths, fluted arrows, spear points, scrapers and charred animal bones.
The springs continued to be essential to the development of the west. Later evidence showed that about 7,000 years ago the region was populated by small groups of Desert Culture people, who survived on native vegetation and small game.
A horse-changing station developed at the springs in the early 20th century, servicing horse-drawn wagon and freight trains traveling between the mining camps to the north and the railroad station at Las Vegas.
In 1916, John H. Nay filed for the water rights of Tule Springs and within a few years was cultivating 10 acres of land. About a decade later, Nay sold his small farm to Gilbert Hefner, who apparently did nothing with it for many years.
The more modern development at Tule Springs took place after Prosper Jacob Gourmond, a prominent Las Vegas businessman, acquired the site and converted it to a dude ranch for divorcees.
Gourmond offers a swimming pool, lake, tennis courts, shooting range, horseback riding, hayrides, dances and other entertainment to his clients. In addition to providing a place for women seeking a divorce, the ranch expanded to include a hundred acres of alfalfa, cattle, dairy cows and fruit orchards.
Many of the whitewash and green-trimmed ranch buildings of the former Tule Springs Ranch can still be found on the site.
In the 1960s, the ranch was purchased by the city of Las Vegas for a park and renamed in honor of Floyd Lamb, a former state Senator who was one of the longest serving members of the Legislature.
In 1977, it became a Nevada state park but was returned to city ownership in 2005.
In December 2014, Congress designated much of the surrounding area as Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. The monument site, which open daily during the day, encompasses some 22,650 acres, much of which has not yet been developed.
For more information about the new national monument area go to: http://www.nps.gov/tusk/index.htm.
Lamb Park includes nature trails, picnic tables, gazebos and lakes. Visitors will also find picnic areas with tables and grills.
Standing beside the large spring-fed lake in the center of the monument, it’s easy to appreciate how important the site must have been to Nevada’s earliest inhabitants. The area is literally an oasis in the desert with its green lawns, lush tule reeds and mature trees.
For information about Floyd Lamb Park go to: http://old.lasvegasnevada.gov//information/22389.h
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.