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Aerial Vegas: Man-Made Wonders from the Sky

A flight over Sin City reveals structures and landmarks in the most spectacular way.

Ascaya Luxury Housing Project

Ascaya is a troubled luxury housing project. The massive once-abandoned development in the Henderson area is etched into the side of the McCullough mountain range. It s easy to spot from the sky, southeast of the Strip, and not far (when viewing from a plane seat, that is) from the M Resort. The Ascaya project was designed to provide 331 lots for high-end mansions. It was shut down and barricaded in 2009 after more than $200 million was spent on blasting into the mountainside to construct housing pads and connecting roadways.

Now that we’re undergoing a housing boom, things seem to have turned around and sales at Ascaya are climbing. Famous names like Gene Simmons and Raiders owner Mark Davis have purchased property here, proving that just about anything can be a success with enough patience and time.

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Nevada Solar One Plant

The Nevada Solar One plant lies in the Eldorado Valley, south of the region between Las Vegas and Boulder City. If you ve ever taken a day trip to Laughlin, you re sure to have seen this massive solar power plant. After all, it covers 400 acres of prime sun-fed Nevada desert.

Nevada Solar One took sixteen months to construct and went online in June of 2007. Unlike the Ascaya project, which literally blew away fifteen million cubic yards of mountain rock, the Nevada Solar One plant s 760 parabolic trough concentrators follow the natural terrain of the desert floor.

The silent and somewhat aesthetic complex generates about 136 million kilowatt-hours annually. According to Wikipedia, the number of carbon emissions it reduces by creating clean energy is the equivalent of removing 20,000 automobiles from the road each year.

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Lake Mead, Mike O’Callaghan Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge and Hoover Dam

A different kind of power plant hydroelectric is just a short drive from Nevada Solar One. Of course, we’re talking about Hoover Dam. This man-made wonder continues to generate enormous amounts of electricity for Arizona, California, and Nevada. That s despite the fact that continually-dropping water levels have dramatically changed the appearance of Lake Mead.

Man-made Lake Mead has shrunken in both depth and width, with shorelines crawling far inward throughout the past several years. The entire Lake Mead Marina had to be relocated in 2008 as the water disappeared. It was floated two miles downstream to join Las Vegas Marina. This was a huge effort that moved hundreds of boats, slips, a restaurant, and a store at the pace of 1 mph.

The Mike O’Callaghan Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge took five and a half years to construct at a cost of $240 million. Designed to alleviate traffic flow across the top of Hoover Dam, the massive structure is, unfortunately, a popular choice for suicides. About 15,000 automobiles cross the bridge each day, which connects Nevada with Arizona.

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Lake Las Vegas

Just a little farther north of Lake Mead, you may spot another one-to,e debacle to rival Ascaya. But at least this one actually was completed before falling apart. Lake Las Vegas Resort is a troubled destination of hotels, residences, golf courses, shops, restaurants, and for a short while…a casino.

The centerpiece of this resort community is a 320-acre artificial lake that was built atop the Las Vegas Wash. The wash feeds contaminated and radioactive run-off from the Vegas valley into Lake Mead (keep that in mind if you re ever planning a boating or swimming excursion there). Filling of the new lake began in 1990, and over 3,500 acres of land surrounding it were made available for retail and housing development.

Since then, Lake Las Vegas Resort has had a depressing history of closures, lawsuits, and massive debt. Hotels have been closed, re-opened by other owners, and then closed again. Like Ascaya, the need for housing has made Lake Las Vegas more appealing, and its reputation has improved greatly. In 2020, the project was selected as Gold Award Winner for Southern Nevada Planned Communities by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. If you’d like to spend a quiet weekend there, Westin Resort/Spa and Hilton Resort/Spa are the current hospitality destinations.


  • A native of Pitchfork, Oklahoma, I have a unique perspective of the world at large and Las Vegas in particular. A former health care professional and detective, I've hopped genres, genders, and glass ceilings in my desire to see things as nobody else does. Care to look through my viewfinder?

A native of Pitchfork, Oklahoma, I have a unique perspective of the world at large and Las Vegas in particular. A former health care professional and detective, I've hopped genres, genders, and glass ceilings in my desire to see things as nobody else…

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