Antonio Mariano Armijo (1804-1850) was a Mexican explorer and merchant who is famous for leading the first commercial caravan party between Santa Fe, Nuevo México and Los Angeles, Alta California in 1829-1830. His route, the southernmost and most direct, is known as the Armijo Route of the Old Spanish Trail.
Armijo and the party named the Las Vegas Valley "Las Vegas", Spanish for "the meadows" after following a tributary up from the Colorado River. 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. 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.
- PHOTO #: WY0002a, CAPTION: Antonio Mariano Armijo on horse Fuego (Smokey) 1851. This pencil sketch by J. Lundquist. Antonio Mariano is oldest son of Jose Francisco Armijo and; Jesus Maria Armijo. See also: Rulofson Coll. No. RR-244L Year: 1851 from solanohistory.org accessed October 30, 2015.
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