Desert Companion

All things leisure: The Clark County Wetlands Park

Wet and mild

On the eastern edge of the Las Vegas Valley is a minor miracle known as the Clark County Wetlands Park: nearly 3,000 acres of wetlands, complete with duck-filled ponds and flowing water. Open since 2001, the park has traditionally greeted visitors with … a pair of drab trailers in a gravel parking lot. Not anymore. Now, a $21 million “Nature Center” has taken the place of those trailers, complete with a 100-seat auditorium, a café streaming live video from within the preserve, an on-site research laboratory, and 15,000 square feet of observation decks.

But don’t visit for the shiny new buildings. Getting outside is what the Wetlands Park is all about, and to that end they offer six trailheads accessing about 13 miles of trails. The meandering paths wind through voluminous stands of reeds, past emerald ponds, and along a rushing stream that channels recycled water back to Lake Mead. In the middle of a largely barren desert, the Wetlands Park offers the chance to encounter genuine wildlife, from migrating birds to rabbits and even coyotes.

If you’re a building freak, there’s something for you, too: The center used recycled structural beams, insulation from shredded blue jeans, sustainably harvested bamboo flooring, and design features like a white “cool roof” to reduce cooling costs. Whether indoors or out, the upgraded Clark County Wetlands Park is shaping up to be a fine spot for a bit of nature in our urban wilds.

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