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Birding Around the Lake Mead Wetlands Trail
Birding Around Las Vegas, Lake Mead Region
Birding Around the Lake Mead Wetlands Trail
Lake Mead Wetlands Trail
The start of the Wetlands Trail feels like the wrong place for birding (view E)


At the lower end of Las Vegas Wash where the river of runoff from the Las Vegas Valley flows into Lake Mead, there is a deep, narrow, steep-walled canyon that is full of vegetation. The vegetation (e.g., honey mesquite, saltcedar, saltbush, and cattail) and water create a riparian corridor that attracts birds and other wildlife from miles around.

Lake Mead Wetlands Trail
The trail follows narrow ridges as it heads off the flats and down into the wash (view E)
The Wetlands Trail starts on top of the bluffs on the north side of the wash and runs eastward across sparsely-vegetated desert pavement to follow the tops of narrow ridges down to the bottom of the wash. In the wash, you can walk back up towards the bridge. The trail, however, loops back to the northwest and follows another little side-canyon back to the parking area. The park Service says that the loop trail runs for about 1.25 miles, but it doesn't seem that long. Some time ago, you could make your way down along the wash, but it is a bit overgrown now.
Lake Mead Wetlands Trail
Las Vegas Wash with flowing water and riparian vegetation (view E)

The edge of the bluffs overlook the wash and provide an elevated position to look down into the water and see birds in the shrubs; however, watch your footing out to the edge.

The water isn't safe for swimming (it is, after all, urban runoff), but it does attract many birds, and as one hiker on the trail said, this is about the only place in southern Nevada where you can go to hear the sounds of running water.

The Park Service has been rehabilitating the area using native vegetation, so this should be an interesting place in a few years.

Lake Mead Wetlands Trail
Goatsuckers fill the sky as dusk gathers (arrows point to five Common Nighthawks) (view S)


The Wetlands Trail is located east of Las Vegas at Lake Mead, just west of the old Las Vegas Bay Marina. The easiest way to get there from downtown Las Vegas is to drive south on Highway 95 to Henderson. Exit the highway, turn left onto Lake Mead Drive, and drive east out of town, over the mountains, and down towards the lake. About 200-300 yards past the Lake Mead entrance station, turn left (north) onto Northshore Road (Table 1, Site 0654), and drive for about 1.2 miles to the Wetlands Trail parking area. The parking area is on the right (east) side of the road, just north of the bridge over Las Vegas Wash, and on the outside edge of a sharp left-hand curve in the road (Site 0560).

Birding the Lake Mead Wetlands Trail
Trail back to parking follows wash (view NW)


The National Recreation Area is always open, but this area probably should be considered day-use only.


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

Birding the Lake Mead Wetlands Trail
Trail back to parking along wash (view NW)


This is a good place to check the thickets and wetland vegetation for desert residents (e.g., Verdin, Black-throated Sparrow, House Finch, and Gambel's Quail) and to look for migrants during spring and fall (e.g., flycatchers, warblers, Cliff Swallows, Tree Swallows, Common Nighthawks, and Lesser Nighthawks). Bats are attracted to the water and the insects, and coyotes are attracted to the water.

Keep an eye out for dragonflies too.

Table 1. GPS Coordinates for Highway Locations (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location Latitude (°N) Longitude (°W) UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (feet) Verified
0560 Wetlands Trail 36.1247 114.9022 688790 3999615 1,370 Yes
0654 Lakeshore Rd at Northshore Rd 36.1095 114.8987 689139 3997939 1,545 Yes

Happy birding! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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