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Birding Around Lower Las Vegas Wash
Birding Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead Area
Birding Around Lower Las Vegas Wash
Birding Around Lower Las Vegas Wash
Las Vegas Bay (view NW)

Overview

Las Vegas Wash is a place to seek refuge from the desert and watch waterfowl, herons, grebes, shorebirds, pelicans, and other birds associated with water. These are the same species found throughout the west, so visitors from beyond the desert may prefer birding in places with more desert species. If you are from the desert, however, this is a scenic area to look for waterbirds and hope to see something unusual (such as the Parasitic Jaeger and Sabine's Gulls seen in October 2004 and Black-legged Kittiwake and Swamp Sparrows in January 2013).

There are four main areas for birding in the Las Vegas Wash area: the campground, the boat ramp (a hike), the scenic overlook, and the picnic area, as described below and on the linked pages.

Link to map.

Ranger Station
LV Wash Ranger Station at Lakeshore Rd (view E)

Location

Las Vegas Wash is located east of Las Vegas on the near shore of Lake Mead. The easiest way to get there from downtown Las Vegas is to drive south on Highway 93/95 to Lake Mead Drive. Exit the highway, and turn left onto Lake Mead Drive (Table 1, Site 0723), which becomes Lake Mead Parkway. Drive east on Lake Mead Parkway for 8.5 miles (out of town and over the hills) to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area entrance station.

Inside the Recreation Area, continue on the main road (now Lakeshore Road) for 2.1 miles to Las Vegas Bay, 2.5 miles to Las Vegas Bay Overlook, and 3.9 miles to 33-Hole Picnic Area.

Las Vegas Wash
Las Vegas Wash Campground: a green oasis

Description

There are several places to bird in the Las Vegas Wash area, but with the lake level so low, the water and the birds are getting to be pretty far from the convenient birding spots. Conditions change, so birders might need to just search out the best place to see the lake. Until the water level comes back up (perhaps never?), be sure to bring a spotting scope.

There are two places to bird the lake from the pavement (with short walks), the campground, and one trail along the wash and lakeshore.

Las Vegas Wash
Las Vegas Wash Campground

Las Vegas Bay Campground. The campground is located on a flat-topped bluff overlooking Las Vegas Wash. The landscape is sparsely vegetated with stunted creosote bush, white bursage, and a few other shrubs. In contrast, the campground has large eucalyptus trees and oleander bushes, with several cottonwood, Russian olive, and California fan palms mixed in. The surrounding desert is almost barren, so the trees and shrubs provide the only green habitat for birds in this dry area. The campground is irrigated, and the water attracts birds and other wildlife. Las Vegas Wash, which drains the entire Las Vegas Valley, flows down the canyon on the northeast side of the bluff. Shrubs and saltcedar grow along the stream.

When the lake level was up, the end of the campground road provided a nice, elevated position for watching waterbirds in the lake. However, with the water level so low, the campground now overlooks Las Vegas Wash, and the lake is in the far distance.

Boat Ramp Lakeshore Trail
Boat Ramp Lakeshore Trail

Boat Ramp Lakeshore Trail. The boat ramp is high, dry, and a long ways from the lake edge, but the trail provides access to the edge of the water. From near the end of the boatramp, a well defined trail runs southeast for about 0.5 miles to a low bluff overlooking the point where Las Vegas Wash empties into Lake Mead (Jan 2013). Without a spotting scope, this is a good place to scan the lake.

The well defined trail continues, but stays a fair ways from the water. Even so, there are plenty of brushy places to look for Abert's Towhee, Say's Phoebe, and winter sparrows. After about 1 mile from the boat ramp, birders can make their way out to the edge of the water for good views of the birds. On the way back, try to stay closer to the water until the trail gives out, then work through the brush back to the original trail. Water levels change, so trail conditions will change too.

Las Vegas Wash Scenic Overlook and Picnic Area
Las Vegas Bay Scenic Overlook (view E)

Las Vegas Wash Scenic Overlook and Picnic Area. This picnic area is located on a flat-topped bluff that overlooks the lake and the marina from the south. The vegetation is sparse, stunted creosote bush, and the only shade is on the picnic tables. This is a good, elevated position for looking down on the water, but you have to walk out to the edge of the bluffs. With a scope, you can look over the same general area as can be seen from the marina, but from an elevated position. As the water level drops, this site will become high, dry, and far from the lake.

33 Hole Scenic Overlook and Picnic Area
33 Hole picnic area (view north)

 

33 Hole Scenic Overlook and Picnic Area. This picnic area is located on three, flat-topped bluffs overlooking the lake. The vegetation is sparse creosote bush, and the only shade is on the picnic tables. Several picnic tables provide good views out over the lake, so you can rest in the shade, eat a picnic meal, and use a spotting scope to identify birds on the water.

Las Vegas Wash
Las Vegas Wash boat ramp (view E)

Hours

Always open.

Fees

It costs $10 per vehicle to enter the Recreation Area (annual passes accepted); after that, there are no extra fees for using the area.

Las Vegas Wash
Birding from the edge of the dry sand past the boat ramp. Be sure to bring a spotting scope (view E)

Specialties

Historically, this is a good place to view a variety of waterbirds including ducks, Clark's, Western, and other grebes, Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, Forster's Terns, Great-blue Herons, Great Egrets, Brown Pelicans, and shorebirds. Although not the best, passerines can be seen here too. In the campground, check the trees for migrant warblers and look for residents such as Verdin, Greater Roadrunners, and Gambel's Quail. Keep an eye out for unusual species too, such at the Parasitic Jaeger, Sabine's Gulls, Caspian Tern, Inca Doves, Peregrine Falcon, and Cooper's Hawk that show up during fall migration. Watch for Coyotes, Black-tailed Jackrabbits, White-tailed Antelope Squirrels, and Side-blotched Lizards in the area, and keep an eye out for dragonflies.

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 130114

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