Las Vegas Sun

July 7, 2015

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Is the Las Vegas Valley really a valley?

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I’ve heard some people claim the Las Vegas Valley isn’t a valley. Is that true? Also, as a new resident I’m in need of a little geography lesson. Please give me the names of the mountain ranges that ring the valley.


Mr. Sun has run across Internet sites making this claim, that the Las Vegas Valley isn’t a true valley but rather a “bowl.”

The city may be full of fakery, but its valley is as real as they come.

Here’s the expert: “It’s certainly a valley in that all the drainage flows to the center ... the ground water coming off the Spring mountains and Frenchman or Sunrise mountain to the east,” said Mike Wells, chairman of UNLV’s geoscience department. “It’s not a valley like the valleys that are formed by stream erosion. This is a valley that was formed by faults associated with the stretching of the Earth’s crust. It’s a tectonic valley.”

The most prominent evidence of this stretching is Frenchman Mountain, which used to stand on the far side of what is now Lake Mead, some 40 miles away.

For those who argue the valley is really a bowl, Wells said that’s not even a term commonly used in geology.

Now, a quick primer on the mountain ranges that circle Las Vegas: to the north is the Sheep range; to the south the McCulloughs; Frenchman is to the east; and Spring to the west.

There also used to be tall mountains of cash on the Strip. But the recession has eroded them somewhat.

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