The Spanish founded no settlements in Nevada as they had in other parts of what became the southwest United States. In 1776 Father Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Father Silvestre Velez de Escalante attempted to find a route from Santa Fe (in present-day New Mexico) to California and may have entered eastern Nevada. They were convinced that a river they called the San Buenaventura must flow from the Rocky Mountains across Nevada through the Sierra Nevada mountain range to the Pacific Ocean, but they were unable to find it. That same year Father Francisco Garces tried to find a route from the upper Sonora settlements in Mexico to California. During his search he may have come through the Las Vegas meadows in southern Nevada.
The territory that is now Nevada came under Mexican control when Mexico won its freedom from Spain in 1821. Exploration of Nevada began with two fur trappers, Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudson’s Bay Company of Great Britain and Jedediah Smith of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, who were followed by others. Ogden and Smith entered at opposite ends of Nevada, seeking new beaver ponds and the elusive river, the San Buenaventura.
On his way overland to California, Smith entered Nevada in August 1826 (near present-day Bunkerville) and his party arrived at San Gabriel Mission in California in November. Mexican authorities ordered Smith to leave immediately by the same route.
Instead, he turned north, and in 1827 crossed the Sierra, accompanied by two of his men, and entered the central part of Nevada, following a route from Tonopah to Ely. Smith thereby became the first white man to cross Nevada, the first to be aware of the extent of what came to be called the Great Basin, and the first to trade with and report on the native peoples of the area. He, too, failed to discover the San Buenaventura River. "Nevada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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