The many springs in these mountains once provided water for Paiute Indians and later brought mountain men and early settlers to the area. This 520acre/21 Oha oasis was developed into a combination working ranch and luxurious retreat by a string of owners who have given the area a long and colourful history. Chester Lauck of the comedy team Lum & Abner, and millionaire Howard Hughes are past owners of the ranch. In the mid-l 830s a campsite was established along the wash that runs through the ranch. The spring-fed creek and grassy meadows formed a welcome oasis for travellers using this as an alternative route to the Spanish Trail through Cottonwood Valley. The use of the site by pack and wagon trains continued until their replacement by the railroad in 1905. At the ranch house, you can find information about the ranch and surrounding areas and take a self-guided tour. Guided tours throughout the historic area are available weekdays at noon, 1 and 2pm; weekends at noon, 1, 2 and 3pm. There are often fire restrictions in this area, so check the website for the latest information. The remote trail was also perfect for outlaws and was used extensively by those involved in slave trading, horse stealing and raids on passing caravans. One of the most famous was mountain man Bill Williams, after whom the ranch was first named. In 1876 it was taken over by 2 men and named Sand Stone Ranch. The name stuck until it was leased in 1944 to Chet Lauck, the Lum part of comedy duo Lum & Abner and renamed Bar Nothing Ranch. A ranch house was built as a family retreat and Lum created a boys' camp. In 1955, German actress Vera Krupp bought the property, expanded the ranching business side and renamed it Spring Mountain Ranch. At 3,800ft/1,158m, it is usually up to 10¦C/15¦F cooler than Las Vegas with cold winters and thunderstorms and flash floods in summer. Visitors can see wonderful plants including the Joshua tree, Mohave yucca, indigo bush, desert marigold and globe mallow. Animals are harder to spot as many are nocturnal, but include lizards, snakes, antelope ground squirrels, kit fox, jackrabbits, coyote, rock squirrel, badger, mule deer and bighorn sheep.
15mls/24km west of Las Vegas, via Charleston Boulevard (Highway 159), in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Daily 9am-6pm. The main ranch house is open daily 10am-4pm
$5 per vehicle; walk-ins, bicycles and bus $l
The programme includes hikes by moonlight into Sandstone Canyon. A Living History programme re-creates the ranch's past in the spring and autumn, including demonstrations of pioneer skills. The Super Summer Theater puts on outdoor performances every June, July, August and September while the Theatre under the Stars features musicals and plays for the whole family. Gates open at 6pm, shows start at 8pm (7pm in September). Tickets cost $10 in advance (children 5 and under go free). There is also a picnic area.