Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Southern Nevada state park combines history, lush scenery, and a theatrical flair.
STORY BY COURTNEY SHEETS
PHOTOS BY KATILIN GODBEY/TRAVELNEVADA
On the outskirts of Las Vegas, there lies a place of escape, culture, and Nevada history like no other. Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is a 520-acre oasis with a working ranch and retreat. Originally built in 1876 by Sargent James Wilson and George Anderson, the ranch and lands have seen many owners—from the rich and famous to furriers and land developers—before being taken over by the Nevada Division of State Parks in 1974. Today the park still offers lush, unparalleled scenery along with fascinating history and special events.
THE LURE OF WATER
In the 1830, the area’s many springs drew pioneers, travelers, and hunters, and the Sandstone Ranch sprung up when Wilson and Anderson took to ranching in 1876. Wilson’s family continued to own the ranch—his stepsons took ownership in 1906—until finally selling it in 1929 to Willard George.
Until 1944 Willard George—a furrier—used the land to raise chinchillas. In 1944, Chester Lauck, of “Lum and Abner” radio fame, bought the land and built the ranch house that still stands to this day. He renamed the ranch to Bar Nothing and took up cattle ranching.
In 1955 German actress Vera Krupp bought the land after her divorce from coffee magnate Alfred Krupp. She adopted the Diamond V as her brand and the symbol can still be seen imprinted in the concrete walkway outside the back of the ranch house. Krupp changed the property’s name to Spring Mountain Ranch.
In 1967, Krupp was in poor health and ready to move. She offered to sell the land to the State of Nevada as a park, but the asking price of $1.1 million dollars was out of the state’s budget. Krupp instead sold the estate to Hughes Tool Company, owned by Howard Hughes. It is unlikely Hughes ever stayed at the ranch, but his corporation used the property as a corporate retreat.
In 1972, the ranch was sold once more, this time to two prominent land developers, Fletcher Jones and William Murphy. After much public protest over the pair’s plan to raze the ranch house and build luxury homes, the pair sold the ranch and land to the Nevada Division of State Parks.
Today the ranch house stands as the visitor center, and as a museum representing the owners and history of this desert oasis. It also provides a glimpse into the Wild West beginning of Las Vegas, as well as rural life in the 1930s and 40s.
A THEATRICAL GEM IN THE DESERT
Since 1976, Spring Mountain Ranch has also been the home of Super Summer Theatre which serves as a cultural and artistic escape from the summer time heat. Producing up to four shows and numerous special productions a season, each month from June to September a different show brings the best of Broadway’s new and old classics to the masses.
An outdoor amphitheater brings theatre under the stars to thousands each summer. Performers are made up of locals, performers from The Strip, and everything in between. Attendees often arrive up to two hours before curtain to enjoy picnic-style dinners in the grassy tree lined meadow that serves as SST’s house. Food and drink are also available at the venue for those who wish to leave the cooking to someone else.
Performances run Wednesday through Saturday starting at 8:05 p.m., June through August. September’s performances run Thursday through Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m.
For first-timers, some tips:
– Make sure to bring a blanket or light jacket. The altitude at Spring Mountain Ranch means once the sun goes down it can get a bit chilly.
– Do not bring pets, lounge or banana chairs.
– No smoking.
– Park fee before 5 p.m. is $9. After 5 p.m., there is no fee to enter.
– The Ranch House stays open until 7 p.m. June through August, so take a docent-guided look around before the show starts.
The 41st annual season Super Summer Theater
“Hooray for Hollywood” — May 13-14
“Beauty and the Beast” — June 1-18
“Memphis” —July 6-23
“Bring It On: The Musical” — Aug. 10-27
“The Mystery of Edwin Drood” — Sept. 8-24