Clark County Wetlands Park: The Complete Guide

Clark County Wetlands Park

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Clark County Wetlands Park

Address
7050 Wetlands Park Ln, Las Vegas, NV 89122-8118, USA
Phone +1 702-455-7522

You might be surprised to find a 3,000-acre wetlands paradise smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert—and you wouldn’t be alone. However, the Clark County Wetlands Park, the largest park in the Clark County, Nevada park system, is no mirage, nor is it naturally occurring. And, for that matter, it is not another of the city’s elaborate, high-production entertainment zones (although you can certainly have as much fun there).

In fact, the wetlands park was constructed in 2001 to provide education to the public on the human impact of the desert environment, and also to reduce the environmental toll of waste and stormwater runoff. It has the side benefits of attracting fabulous and unexpected birds such as the Cinnamon Teal Duck and Great Blue and Green Herons, among others. The park has set aside 210 acres as a nature preserve, whose trail you can wander to experience the wildlife, bodies of water, and native plants that stabilize the sides of the Las Vegas Wash (a 12-mile-long channel that sends most of the Las Vegas Valley’s excess water into Lake Mead).

Open from dawn to dusk, Clark County Wetlands Park is free to the public and one of the most transporting spots to experience Mother Nature in the Las Vegas area. Check the weather before coming to the park—summer temps soar above 100 F, and during the area’s monsoon season (June through September), trails and access roads can flood.

Read on to discover the park's history, and learn what to do and see during your visit.

History and Background

Although the 3,000 acres of marshes, washes, and the urban river that comprise this park are fairly new, the land’s history is ancient and fascinating.

Archaeologists have excavated some of the Wash’s stratified layers to identify different groups of human inhabitants in this area, estimated to date back to 10,000 years ago. There’s evidence in the Wash itself of human habitation dating to around 600 AD. The ancient Anasazi, ancestral Puebloans whose earliest culture was known as the Basket Maker people, left evidence of their life in the valley. The Mohave, for whom the desert surroundings are named, occupied it around the same time, and the Southern Paiute considered this valley and southern Nevada their sacred land.

Spanish explorers made their way through the Vegas Valley in the 1700s, but didn’t stop here until the early 1800s when taking the Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. Early Mormon pioneers settled in the Valley in the 1850s, and you can still explore their Old Mormon Fort on Las Vegas Creek, which feeds into the wash. In 1902, the San Pedro, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake Railroads began expanding across southern Nevada as the national Westward Expansion—which attracted pioneers and settlers who wanted to start a new life out West—was in full swing. By the early 20th century, Las Vegas became a water stop for the railroads as water from wells was piped into the area; as a result, the city experienced a boom.

The area's next period of growth happened in the 1930s when the Hoover Dam was constructed, nearly quintupling Las Vegas’ population since most of its residents at that time were dam workers. Most people know “Sin City’s” history post-Hoover Dam construction: Local casino bosses and entrepreneurs, Mafia crime lords, and legalized gambling developed the area to draw even more people to this area. When you visit the Clark County Wetlands Park, you’ll find some of that history annotated in the Nature Center, a large exhibit hall in the park’s center that features displays and dioramas.

Things to Do

There are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails at Wetlands Park. It’s a birder’s paradise and contains wildlife and trees you’d never expect to live in the middle of the Mohave.

To get started, you can find a full map online, but we also recommend starting at the visitor center, where you can visit with experts in the area, pick up free postcards, and get information on the wildlife and plants you’re about to see. The map shows which trails welcome leashed pets, which roads are paved (and unpaved), and even where there’s equestrian access. Some of the most popular areas are Boardwalk Pond, the Cottonwood Grove, Vern’s Pond, and Island. “Big Bridge,” which is actually the Upper Division Weir Bridge, is one of the most frequented spots in the nature preserve.

Here are other top things to add to your itinerary.

Go on a Bike Ride

Bikers can zip all over the Wetlands Park, except within the Nature Preserve. One of the best places to bike is the paved 14-mile Wetlands Loop Trail that runs north of the Las Vegas Wash. You can get here from Neighborhood Park, Sunrise Trailhead, Flamingo Arroyo Trail, or the River Mountains Loop Trail. You can find a special biking trails map on the Clark County government website.

Visit the Nature Center

Don’t miss the Nature Center, where you can see dioramas and exhibits about the park’s construction and the natural environment. Be sure to stop at the front desk to pick up audio tour equipment. You can even borrow a family backpack from the exhibit hall front desk, which contains information about the areas within the park.

Marvel at Wildlife

The 210-acre Nature Preserve is the jewel in the park’s crown, and a favorite place for wildlife viewing. It has access to three distinct habitats and lots of paved trails, some of which are ADA accessible. Birding enthusiasts should keep a lookout for Cinnamon Teal Duck, American Coot, Green Heron, and Great Blue Heron. This relatively small enclave can be found at the Wetlands’ west end.

Let Your Kids Run Wild at Neighborhood Park

Kids will love Neighborhood Park, where there are climbable beavers, toads, and snakes in a desert-themed play area.

Take a Guided Tour

Those who love a guided tour can sign up for all sorts of programs in the park. Birders can join a park naturalist and an expert birder from Red Rock Audubon for a guided birding walk that costs only $5. Naturalists will also take visitors on themed walks, such as one that explores fluttering and buzzing pollinators. Kids can go on a walk that focuses on bugs, and even join the Wetlands Explorers Club, which gives them different themes and activities to do while at the park.

How to Get There

Wetlands Park is located about 20 minutes east of the Las Vegas Strip near Sam Boyd Stadium, off Tropicana Ave. at Wetlands Park Lane.

If you aren’t driving yourself, opt for a rideshare vehicle. Uber or Lyft will cost about $20 each way, but the city’s taxis will cost significantly more.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Bring your own food and water since there are no concessions at the park. While you can enjoy lunch at the Picnic Café, don’t be fooled by the name—it doesn’t sell food,
  • You’ll find drinking fountains for your reusable water bottle at the Nature Center, Neighborhood Park trailhead, and the Duck Creek Trailhead.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring plenty of sunscreen. Leave the flip-flops at home; they’re not great for this terrain.
  • Pick up complimentary postcards, a park map, and pamphlets on the wetlands’ flora and fauna at the information center. You can see a lot in just a couple of hours.
  • Although tempting, the nature preserve’s ponds and streams aren’t for swimming (or wading, boating, or fishing). This is all reclaimed water.
  • Leashed dogs are allowed on most trails but not in the nature preserve.
  • Don’t feed the animals. It’s not only against county ordinances to feed the wildlife in Wetlands Park, nutritionally incomplete people food can hurt developing young animals.

 

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The Complete Guide to the Clark County Wetlands Park