Spanish explorers approached the area of present-day Nevada in the 1770s, but it wasn't until half a century later that fur traders venturing into the Rocky Mountains publicized the region, attracting explorers such as Jebediah S. Smith, Peter Skene Ogden and Joseph Walker.
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Guided by the legendary Kit Carson, John C. Frémont explored much of the land—then controlled by Mexico—between 1843 and 1845. His reports gave the U.S. government its first comprehensive picture of the area, which the U.S. acquired a few years later in the Mexican War.
Las Vegas, now the state's most famous city, got its start as a station stop along the Old Spanish Trail for the wagon trains headed west to the gold rush. In 1861, Congress officially established the territory of Nevada. And on October 31, 1864, Nevada, which comes from the Spanish meaning snow-capped, was admitted as the 36th state of the union, with Carson City as its capital.
Since then, the federal government has played a major role in Nevada's development. The Newlands Irrigation Project in 1907 was the nation's first federal irrigation project. And the Hoover Dam, completed in 1935, transformed the American southwest. Today, Nevada is one of the fastest-growing states in the country.