LAS VEGAS - The Las Vegas Valley is primarily desert, but, tens of thousands of years ago, prehistoric animals wandered the northwest part of the valley.
Over the years, excavations revealed some of that history underneath the ground.
Now, the first state park in more than 20 years plans to highlight the discoveries in southern Nevada.
Dire wolves, sabertooth cats, and Columbian mammoths are just some of the prehistoric animals that once roamed the now desolate land on the northwest side.
"Doesn't look all that impressive but standing underneath our feet is the last two ice ages worth of the history of the Las Vegas Valley," Dr. Josh Bonde, the curator of the Las Vegas National History Museum.
That history will soon become accessible to the public on 315 acres within the roughly 23,000-acre tule springs fossil beds national monument.
"Today is really the birthday of this park," said Garrett Fehner, the park supervisor.
Governor Brian Sandoval, his wife, and other dignitaries attended the celebration of the opening of Ice Age Fossils State Park Thursday.
"This commemorates the beginning of the process of actually putting a visitors center (and) a network of trails (together)," Fehner said. "While the land is a state park, it's not recommended to come out here just yet-until this visitors center opens next summer."
"There's no signs that tell you what you're actually seeing when you go through the fossil beds," said Fehner. "We want to tell that story, but we're in the process of creating something to actually tell it."
The park also plans to highlight scientific research, including the big dig in 1962.
"This property is also the story of the advancement of science," Dr. Bonde said.
The park is expected to bring a potential economic boost to the valley.
"Now there's another alternative to come to truly a global destination where you can come see fossils from 10,000 to 100,000 years old," said Gov. Brian Sandoval, R-Nev.
It's all to showcase the state's past while preserving it for the future.
Construction on the visitors center may start in the next month or two.
WEB EXTRA: Ice Age Fossils State Park: See the fossils uncovered so far from various excavations
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