Whenever we're in Las Vegas, one of my favorite local spots to visit is the Clark County Wetlands Park. A little over a mile from Mary's house, we discovered it on a previous sojourn in Las Vegas a few years ago and have enjoyed it each time we return. It was a bit nippy when we headed out, but warmed up as we were walking. There's a calm, quiet, structured wilderness feel to the 2900-acres of water, trails, and trees encompassed within the park along the Las Vegas Wash. It makes us forget we're in a metro area in the middle of the Mojave Desert, just 7 or 8 miles from the insanity of the Las Vegas Strip.
A Gambel's quail met us at the entrance … scurrying around with a crazy top-knot feather bobbing over his head, impressing all girl quails no doubt. A roadrunner (Beep! Beep!) crossed our path, but was too fast for a photo.
The park is touted to be home to 300 species, but it's not all birds. They claim more than 70 species of mammals and reptiles have been spotted. We saw several, odd-looking spiny soft-shelled turtles sunning themselves, their long, serpent-like necks extended to catch some warm rays.
Desert cottontails dashed in front of us, then hid in the thick bush and bramble, confident that if they couldn't see us, we couldn't see them.
There were coots, and pied-billed grebes and gallinules (We used to call them moorhen, but now it's gallinule … the name was changed. Who knew there was an ornithologist's union with such power?)
Raptors stood sentry high in the high bare-leaved trees, scanning their surroundings for errant, incautious bunnies.
We walked along the multiple paths and trails that criss-cross the park, over bridges and streams, stopping at the edge of ponds and marshes to admire the riparian scenery. A great blue heron stood stock-still, frozen in place, waiting for a fish to swim past. A noisy, busy duck happened to come ashore just next to him and the heron let out a very loud, aggravated, “frawnk”. The duck was oblivious. The scene brought back memories of my grandpa in a little row boat intently trying to fish while his noisy granddaughter chatted and squirmed incessantly beside him.
Speaking of chatting, as the morning warmed up, we were surprised by the number of people we met on the trails. Some running, some strolling in groups, chatting and laughing (scaring the wildlife away). The secret is out. It's obviously become a popular place. With a huge, classy new nature center and lots of scheduled community activities, it's a magnet for families. Glad folks are enjoying it, but (sigh) we might have to find another place for peaceful morning walks.