Introduction

As of 2019, Clark County is the nation’s 11th most populous county in the United States and provides extensive regional services to more than 2.3 million citizens and more than 45.6 million visitors a year. Clark County is the most populous of Nevada’s 17 counties and holds 70 percent of the state’s population. Covering an area the size of New Jersey, Clark is home to the nation’s 7th-busiest airport and the state’s largest public hospital, University Medical Center. The County also provides municipal services to 1 million residents in the unincorporated area. The famed Las Vegas Strip sits at the heart of Clark County, which features unparalleled attractions; Las Vegas boasts more than 147,000 hotel rooms and is among the world’s top convention destinations.

History

Before the founding of Clark County, Las Vegas was founded in 1905 after the railroad that made stops in the city. Known as the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, the railroad was the first direct route from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles when it was completed in 1905. It was perhaps the single most significant factor in the creation of what would become the city of Las Vegas, and later, Clark County. Las Vegas has been the county seat since the county was created by splitting off a portion of Lincoln County on February 5, 1908. Before the county was organized, civic leaders collected $1,800 and built the first courthouse in Las Vegas in 1909 and its first county meeting was held in the building in 1909. Much of the county was originally part of Pah-Ute County, Arizona Territory before Nevada became a state.

Officially formed in 1909, Clark County is named for Sen. William Andrews Clark (1839-1925), who established the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad that linked Los Angeles with Salt Lake City. In 1911, of the town’s population of fifteen hundred, 450 residents worked for Clark’s railroad. Due to economic hard times, the railroad halted some services in Las Vegas in 1917. Clark’s line to Beatty, which was losing money, was discontinued in 1918, and its rails and ties were removed. Finally, in 1922, Clark sold his share in the railroad to Union Pacific.

After wide-open gambling became legal in 1931, small casinos began to dot Fremont Street, especially in the three blocks between Main and Third. The first casino licensed after the 1931 law passed, the Northern Club, was at 15 East Fremont, between Main and First. The county began to grow after the completion of the Hoover Dam (1936) on the Colorado River, and the population grew even more dramatically after the first of many Las Vegas casinos (the Flamingo) was built in 1945. The county’s population grew from 4,859 in 1920 to 48,289 in 1950.  In the 1940s and 1950s, the Strip hotels the world long associated with Las Vegas were built: The El Rancho Vegas, Hotel Last Frontier (later the New Frontier), Flamingo, Thunderbird, Desert Inn, Sahara, Sands, Riviera, Dunes, Hacienda, Tropicana, and Stardust. In 1980, the population had risen to 463,087.

Landscape and Climate

Seeing an average of 5 inches of rain and 292 sunny days per year, Clark County’s climate is dry and sunny. Roughly 72% of Clark land falls into the shrublands category, which can be described as “temperate deserts and semi-deserts which are characterized by sparse vegetation that is usually dominated by low shrubs and herbaceous plants” (Kauffman and Pyke, 2001).

Elevation varies throughout the county, with its centralized location of Las Vegas sitting at 2,000 ft. Laughlin, in the southern portion, sits at 500 ft while Mesquite in the west sits at 1,000 ft. The highest point in the county is Charleston Peak, which reaches just shy of 12,000 ft on the outskirts of Las Vegas. This area, which falls largely into the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area, is one of the few places in Clark where pine trees, junipers, aspens, and shrub live oaks can be found together, which brings some green into what is largely a desert landscape. Summer temperatures for the county reach well into the 100s, and winter lows can be found in the 30s. Much of the water that can be found in Clark County is shared with Arizona in places such as Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and different portions of the Colorado River along the eastern border of the state.

Seeing an average of 5 inches of rain and 292 sunny days per year, Clark County’s climate is dry and sunny. Roughly 72% of Clark land falls into the shrublands category, which can be described as “temperate deserts and semi-deserts which are characterized by sparse vegetation that is usually dominated by low shrubs and herbaceous plants” (Kauffman and Pyke, 2001).

Elevation varies throughout the county, with its centralized location of Las Vegas sitting at 2,000 ft. Laughlin, in the southern portion, sits at 500 ft while Mesquite in the west sits at 1,000 ft. The highest point in the county is Charleston Peak, which reaches just shy of 12,000 ft on the outskirts of Las Vegas. This area, which falls largely into the Spring Mountain National Recreation Area, is one of the few places in Clark where pine trees, junipers, aspens, and shrub live oaks can be found together, which brings some green into what is largely a desert landscape. Summer temperatures for the county reach well into the 100s, and winter lows can be found in the 30s. Much of the water that can be found in Clark County is shared with Arizona in places such as Lake Mead, Lake Mohave, and different portions of the Colorado River along the eastern border of the state.

Community and Events

Arts and Culture: Clark County is home to a thriving art scene due largely in part to the downtown Las Vegas Art District. Comprised of three vintage buildings and 30,000 sq ft of space, Art Square is home to galleries and art gardens surrounded by shops, eateries, and performance spaces. A majority of Las Vegans know First Friday as well, which is a monthly event on the first Friday of each month that showcases local artists, musicians, makers and more in order to celebrate local culture and creativity in all its forms.

Museums of many disciplines and topic ranges can be found throughout Clark County. The Nevada Southern Railway Museum and the Hoover Dam Museum can be found in Boulder City, as well as the Mob Museum and the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art in the Las Vegas area. Other notable museums include the Virgin Valley Heritage Museum in Mesquite and Don Laughlin’s Classic Car Museum in Laughlin. There are thousands of performing arts opportunities in Clark County, especially on the Las Vegas Strip, but the Smith Center is home to two resident companies, which are the Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

Outdoor Recreation: There’s an abundance of outdoor recreational activities available to both residents and visitors to Clark County. Open 24 hours a day, the Valley of Fire State Park offers a classic southwestern desert scene while hiking. Kayaking down the Colorado River is a popular day trip for Vegas visitors, offering an all-day kayaking tour and kayak rentals for more experienced paddlers. Red Rock Canyon offers a wide array of activities, some of which include mountain biking and hiking; guided cycling tours are also available in Red Rock.

Clark County is also home to 81 golf courses, with roughly 70 of those courses residing in the Las Vegas area. Although the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas boasts a short zip-line, bigger thrill-seekers can head to Bootleg Canyon near Boulder City. On the colder side of activities, visitors can ski and snowboard at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort near Mount Charleston. But to really experience the desert, visitors can rent dune buggies near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to drive through the sand dunes.

Family Activities: As for family activities, the Las Vegas Strip has a multitude of venues to choose from. The SeaQuest Interactive Aquarium, Shark Reef-Mandalay Bay, and Siegfried and Roy’s Garden and Dolphin Habitat are all venues with marine animal displays in Clark County. The Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N., found in the Treasure Island Casino, allows visitors to delve into the history, science, engineering, genetics, technology, and profiles of Captain America, Hulk, Thor, and Iron Man. Located directly on the Las Vegas Strip, the popular M&Ms World boasts over 28,000 sq ft of entertainment and retail space in which all things M&M are on display.

With the recent additions of the Vegas Golden Knights, Henderson Silver Knights, Las Vegas Lights FC, Vegas Knight Hawks, Las Vegas Raiders, and the Las Vegas Aviators, along with the NBA Summer League, Las Vegas Aces, and UNLV Rebels, sporting events run year-round in Clark. Located at the south end of the famous Las Vegas Strip, the Pinball Hall of Fame boasts over 150 coin-operated pinball games and lays claim to the largest known collection of pinball machines on Earth. The Clark County Fair and Rodeo, held in the mid of April, provides a taste of hometown and Southwestern life with all the country music and carnival fun.

Nightlife: Various casinos, bars, and nightclubs are widespread throughout Clark County. Some of the more popular venues include Caesar’s Palace, The ARIA, MGM Grand, and the Golden Nugget, all of which are home to several bars and nightclubs. VIP hosting companies such as Surreal Nightlife offer hassle-free “best night out” packages to help visitors enjoy the clubbing scenes in Las Vegas. The Fremont Street Experience also offers a wide array of adult-oriented activities similar to the Strip’s.

Various helicopter tour companies, such as Maverick, also offer rides over popular destinations such as the Strip and the Grand Canyon. Cirque du Soleil’s show, Mystere, still fills its theatre after two decades of residency in Las Vegas. Musical acts such as Cher, Barry Manilow, and Aerosmith enjoyed residencies in 2020. For those wanting a more historical activity, the Neon Museum offers visitors a glimpse into what makes Las Vegas so memorable: it’s neon signs.

Food: Joël Robuchon, located in the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, is the only Michelin 3-Star restaurant in Las Vegas. Located in the Wynn Las Vegas, Wing Lei is the first Chinese restaurant in the United States to earn a Michelin Star. Among other popular fine dining experiences are Picasso, Guy Savoy, and Nobu. Las Vegas is also home to several all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants, a popular casual dining experience for many visitors and locals alike. Restaurants such as Crepe Expectations in Las Vegas and The Coffee Cup in Boulder City have been featured on the popular Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. One episode, in particular, All Vegas, All the Time, featured all Las Vegas restaurants as well.

Sources Used

**

NEAP is an ongoing project that greatly benefits from community input. The authors wish to express that If any information here on the county is inaccurate or any impertinent information is missing, an email may be sent to econdev@unr.edu with information, additions, or edits.

B. Borden, J. Lednicky 2021, Clark County Cultural Overview, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno

Learn more about the author(s)

 

Also of Interest:

 
Nevada Liberty Bell in Carson City, Nevada
Community Assets for Carson City, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
M. Rebori, J. Lednicky, B. Borden, L. Taylor 2022, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, FS-22-10
Dangberg Home Ranch Historic Park fields with snow covered mountains in background
Community Assets for Douglas County, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
M. Rebori, J. Lednicky, B. Borden, L. Chichester 2022, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, FS-22-07
Eureka Opera House
Community Assets for Eureka County, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
M. Rebori, J. Lednicky, B. Borden 2022, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, FS-22-03
Spencer Hot Springs
Community Assets for Lander County, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
M. Rebori, J. Lednicky, B. Borden, L. Erquiaga 2022, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, FS-22-05
Lyon County Courthouse
Community Assets for Lyon County, Nevada
The project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal, and environmental characteristics, trends, and...
M. Rebori, J. Lednicky, B. Borden 2022, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, FS-22-04
 

Associated Programs

Thomas Harris speaking to group of Nevada Economic Assessment Project Stakeholders at an update meeting

Nevada Economic Assessment Project (NEAP)

The Nevada Economic Assessment Project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal and environmental characteristics, trends and impacts. The data can be used for land use and project planning, grant writing and overall policy assessment.

las vegas sunset

Nevada Economic Assessment Project (NEAP) - Clark County

NEAP's quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analysis for Clark County