Not so very far from the rapid pulse of The Strip lies an area more akin to the rural old west than to the modern day city of Las Vegas. Blue Diamond, not actually a part of incorporated Las Vegas, is 20 miles from Center Strip but worlds away from the bustling neon culture of The Valley. If you crave open spaces and a quiet, slower pace Blue Diamond may be for you.

Once upon a Time in the West

The village initially known as Cottonwood Springs, first sprang to life in the 1800s as a stopping point for traders navigating the Old Spanish Trail between Santa Fe, New Mexico, and California. After 1848, the trail was used as a wagon road for Mormon settlers until the early 1900s. Historical records show that Paiute Indians harvested pumpkins and melons in the region nestled at the base of the magnificent Red Rock Canyon.

A Mining Town

In the early 1920s, the Blue Diamond Company arrived in the area and opened the gypsum mine to excavate profitable pharmaceutical grade minerals that had been discovered by prospectors earlier in the century. The modern day town, renamed in honor of its new benefactor, was born and operated as a company town where mine workers lived in company housing and signed on account for goods at the company store; deductions were taken directly from their paycheck. The mine shut down in 2005, but the gypsum plant still operates and is now run by the CertainTeed Corporation.

A Simpler Way of Life

Today, the children of the town’s approximately 290 residents still attend the company built Blue Diamond School, which has been operating continuously since 1929, making it one of the oldest in Nevada.

Nowadays, locals enjoy a modern concrete pool built on the same location as the old swimming hole where residents once cooled off from the desert heat. A public park, which houses amenities including a skateboard park, might make you think you’re anywhere but in Las Vegas – until you notice the wild burro population meandering around the premises! Incidentally, feeding the burros warrants a $500 fine.

Properties here are oversized compared with many of the subdivided lots found elsewhere in The Valley, but don’t expect too much in the way of modern construction—anyway, not just yet. Developers do have their sights on a hilltop parcel of land here, with visions of building as many as 7,000 homes and a commercial town square, but it remains to be seen whether these ambitions will be fully realized.

For the time being, folks here continue to enjoy a laid-back way of life that is in keeping with the sign posted at their town limits that reads, “Blue Diamond NV, population low, elevation high, Burros ?”

Image Source: Flickr