Who didn't build forts as a kid?
Snatching all the couch pillows -- and taking pillows from other rooms -- and piling them all up was such an accomplishment. And like many of us, you probably kicked it down once you were done with it.
We all built forts for fun, but early missionaries and settlers in Nevada built them as a means of survival.
Located on Las Vegas Boulevard and Washington Avenue (just a five-minute drive from Fremont Street Experience), the Old Mormon Fort State Park explains the history of early Nevadan settlers and how Las Vegas transformed into the bustling town it is today.
Built by William Bringhurst and his fellow missionaries in 1855, the Old Mormon Fort was the valley's first permanent structure. This 150-foot adobe fort served as a way station for travelers and the nearby creek provided irrigation for fields and orchards.
Ownership of the fort went from local miner Octavius D. Gass in 1865 to ranchers Archibald and Helen Stewart in 1881. San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad took over in 1902. Today, this area preserves the history, giving visitors a glimpse of the hardships and rewarding times of early Las Vegas.
The Old Mormon Fort is both an indoor and outdoor exhibit. The visitor's center includes a museum timeline. Read placards placed throughout the gallery or watch a10-minute video to learn about early settlers. The indoor gallery includes ancient artifacts like a cake griddle, wooden spatula, wooden doll and an apple corer.
Make sure you have your camera ready, because you'll be snapping away once you step outdoors. See the last remaining piece of original adobe fort inside the ranch house. This ranch house, which is the oldest standing building in Nevada, served as a cement testing site during the construction of the Hoover Dam. Today, the ranch house features enrichment on the Paiute Indians, early settlers, as well as photos and artifacts. Artifacts include a spinning wheel, a corn separator and more.
Nearby, see a reconstruction of a soldiers' living quarters from 1867 to 1869. While their accommodations weren't the fanciest, soldiers were grateful for having a roof over their heads, fresh vegetables, meat and clean water.
Just behind the bunker, get an up-close look at an 1850s freight wagon. "Little House on the Prairie" comes to mind. As you walk around, you'll notice a peaceful creek flowing beneath two bridges. Choose from one of many picnic tables to take a break and admire the view.
And speaking of food, make sure to check out the "Garden in the Desert" and see the same crops and plants grown by Native Americans and early day settlers.
Before you leave, stop by the gift shop in the front of the visitor's center. Here you'll find natural soap, Native American tea, snacks, photo frames and other souvenirs for sale.