Armijo and the party named the area "Las Vegas" which is Spanish for "the meadows" after following a tributary up from the Colorado River, intending to travel and create a new trade route from New Mexico to Los Angeles, California.
While Armijo's caravan was camped on Christmas Day, about 100 miles northeast of present day Las Vegas, a scouting party rode west in search of water. Rafael Rivera, a young Mexican scout, wandered away from the rest of the group into the unexplored desert, in search of a shortcut.1 He headed west of the Colorado River and stumbled upon what is now known as the Las Vegas valley. Camping on top of a mesa that overlooked the valley, he could see springs and meadows thriving in the middle of the desert. After two weeks, Rivera rejoined the group and led them to the valley.
The Armijo party noted the unusual fertility of the plains surrounding the springs, and so they called it "Las Vegas," which in Spanish translates into "fertile plains." The fertility was due to the presence of the artesian springs in what otherwise would have been a desert landscape.
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