Monday, March 4, 2013

Hike 2013.005 -- Las Vegas Springs Preserve

Hiked Sunday, February 3. 3 miles.

Not much to say about this one. But I'm so far behind in writing up hikes, that doing a short and easy one now seems to make sense.

Las Vegas Springs Preserve is located where Las Vegas was born. You may or may not already know that "Las Vegas" is Spanish for "The Meadows." The Meadows were a grassland where the Las Vegas Springs bubbled to the surface, providing reliable water that made this a stop-over point for trains in need of water.

Those springs have long ago dried up, or, at least, no longer bubble to the surface. But the Las Vegas Valley Water District apparently got it in its head to do some image polishing by sponsoring this Preserve. They've built a large number of buildings, a garden, a small zoo, a flash-flood room, a museum (not to be confused with the adjacent Nevada State Museum), an artificial wetlands, and even left some of the land in its semi-natural state. If you know much about land management history, think of the National Park Service, circa 1920-1940, when they were blasting roads across the granite surrounding Tenaya Lake, dumping burning embers over Glacier Point, and plotting aerial tramways into the Grand Canyon.

In short there was a lot more going on at the Las Vegas Preserve than I expected to find. Some of it makes sense, but some of it just seems like overkill.

I didn't check to see what I was getting into when I planned my visit. I thought I would just have a nice little trail to walk around the historic wetlands, and maybe get a peek at some birds, flowers, or what ever might be poking around the creosote bushes. That sort of shows what I was focusing on during my research: "Are there trails?" was all I wanted to know.

So I did take a walk around the preserve, as well as the museum. There are many historic sites here, though I suspect some of the archaeological evidence has been bulldozed under the massive building project that has come here. Birds do visit the Preserve, still, and there's still some open space. However, the main trail is paved, and you can rent a bike to peddle around it.

That's not a problem. But if you come later, there's now a "train" that takes visitors around the pavement. No, there aren't any rails. It's not a real train. But it does blow a mean whistle at regular intervals.

Side trails that are not paved are reserved for people on foot.

If you come by early enough, you can enjoy a fair amount of peace. Especially on weekends, however, this place gets hammered. And loud.

To get here, you'd take US 95 north (west), about two miles past Downtown Las Vegas' "Spaghetti Bowl" (the US 95/I-15 Interchange). Exit at Valley View, head south, and get into the left lane. There'll be a sign pointing you towards Las Vegas Springs Preserve and the Nevada State Museum. Apparently, ticketing for the State Museum is also handled by the Preserve box office.

The Preserves are bound by Valley View Avenue on the west (and The Meadows Mall, on the opposite of Valley View), US 95 on the north, and the Las Vegas Wash on the west. At this point, the Las Vegas wash bears an uncanny resemblance to the L.A. River, but without the charm.

Not sure what's the official southern boundary.

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