Walking the Wetlands Loop Trail

 The Wetlands Nature Preserve is only a small part of the Clark County Wetlands Park.

The Wetlands Nature Preserve is only a small part of the Clark County Wetlands Park.

We were looking for another hiking trail close to home. We’d visited the Clark County Wetlands Park before and walked the many short, but interesting trails through the nature preserve on countless occasions. What we didn’t realize is that the nature preserve itself is only a small portion of the Wetlands Parks and the Wetlands Loop Trail around the entire park perimeter was 14 miles … a very respectable day’s hike.

 Wetlands Park view

Wetlands Park view

The mornings are chilly, but pleasant in Las Vegas this time of year … 50+F. The sun shines pretty much every day, the sky is clear and brilliant blue and the days warm up quickly to the mid-70s. It’ a perfect time of year to be here, explore and enjoy what the desert has to offer. We started out early, parked Blue in the Nature Center parking lot and hit the trail.

 Crossing the Big Weir Bridge

Crossing the Big Weir Bridge

Crossing the Big Weir Bridge and heading east, we were already entering new territory for us. David consulted the park map and we were on our way. It’s sometimes hard to remember that this lush wetlands oasis is right on the edge of Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert.

 The paved trail is also a popular biking route, but there’s room enough to share.

The paved trail is also a popular biking route, but there’s room enough to share.

The paved trail is also a popular bike route, but it’s wide enough for pedestrians and bikers to share. It meanders up and down hills, curving gracefully to follow the route of the Las Vegas Wash, an urban river comprised of urban runoff, shallow groundwater, reclaimed water and storm water runoff. After miles of natural scouring and cleansing, it eventually feeds into Lake Mead.

A little history … ‘During January 1830, the first mule train to cross from Santa Fe to Los Angeles passed through the Las Vegas Valley. A Mexican merchant, by the name of Antonio Armijo, and his entourage of 60 men were the first men to complete the journey. Their mission was to take manufactured goods from Santa Fe to Los Angeles and return driving herds of mules and horses.

On Armijo's excursion, the path that led him and his crew from the Colorado River through the valley later became the ‘Las Vegas Wash’. The desert wash led the travelers into a lush valley that is known today as the city of Las Vegas. The city obtained its name in the 1800's by Spanish explorers.’ The English translation for Las Vegas is ‘the meadows’.

 Glimpses of the Strip were the only reminders of how close we were to the city.

Glimpses of the Strip were the only reminders of how close we were to the city.

We could see glimpses of the Las Vegas Strip every once in awhile … the Stratosphere tower, the Luxor pyramid, the High Roller observation wheel ... reminding us that we were still close to the city though we felt far removed from the urban hubbub.

Birdlife in the Wash is amazingly abundant. The usual wetlands inhabitants like coots, gallinules (aka moorhens), several species of ducks, the ubiquitous Canada goose, grebes, herons and cormorants seemed to be thriving in great numbers and quite content with their digs. We also saw several raptors like osprey and what we think is a golden eagle (not a red-tailed hawk). Any ‘eagle eyes’ out there willing to concur or not?

Remember: You can click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image.

 We veered off the paved path onto a hard-packed service road for awhile in order to be closer to the river and spotted a couple of very dedicated ‘twitchers’ trying to blend in along the banks of the river.

We veered off the paved path onto a hard-packed service road for awhile in order to be closer to the river and spotted a couple of very dedicated ‘twitchers’ trying to blend in along the banks of the river.

At about 8.5 miles, we crossed the Powerline Bridge across the Wash once again and began the long, dry trek back to Blue at the Wetlands Park. There were a couple of pleasant stops along the way with vault toilets (thank goodness!) and shaded picnic tables. Our scant, but refreshing picnic lunch of peanut M&Ms (left over from Hallowe’en), tangerines and water hit the spot at one stop. We just sat and watched the world go by at the other.

 What? A mini-Stonehenge in the middle of the desert?

What? A mini-Stonehenge in the middle of the desert?

wetland_mile 14-end of the trail.JPG

The last section of the trail was poorly marked on the trail, on the park map and even on our AllTrails app. We caught sight of the Nature Center roof and headed generally in that direction, though we were probably off-trail for part of the way. We were rewarded with the sight of the final Mile 14 marker at last and trudged the final steps to the parking lot. Whew! A long hike, but a satisfying one. We’ll need a day or so to recover, get a little house work done and decide what to tackle next.