Las Vegas Oasis

Would you guess this post is from a city’s metro area of 2.1 million people, with 44+ million visitors each year?

I would. And given which city, I also guessed right how it would be vacant at dawn, even with the coolest morning lows in the valley.

Clark County Wetlands Park, on the Las Vegas Wash, from 6/25/2015. Musical pairing from the Chairman of the Board – here

entry ramada reflects Frenchman Mountain

Saline irrigation water and low areas with saline soils can be tough on plants, so desert riparian species are all that’s used here – including halophytes.

Quailbush / Atriplex lentiformis, California wildfire smoke above
Fourwing Saltbush / Atriplex canescens

MesoWest showed some highs the day before at 116F in nearby Henderson and along this wash. 116 high – 73 low = a 43F temperature swing in one day. Sign me up…for the low!

boulders and drops in water elevation used to create sound
Tornillo / Prosopis pubescens there, like Bernalillo to the Big Bend
visitor’s center and overlook

Funding met savvy in ecoregion and design there.

controlled burns to rid overgrowth of exotics and aggressive natives

Exotics that replace native species disturbed or removed include salt cedar / Tamarisk spp. and fountain grass / Pennisetum sactaceum. Natives that take over when the balance of natural controls are removed include Western Honey Mesquite / Prosopis torreyana and Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis.

too many concrete walks for my taste

An alternate to concrete would be stabilized aggregate, like decomposed granite (DG): that material provides just as much accessibility for developed trails and paths…plus, its crunching sound and visuals support a more wild effect.

Much better!

DG paths further back…miles of trails here
appealing bench arrangement, shade from Western Cottonwood / Populus fremontii

Finally, a good use of cottonwoods – a riparian area with much room for rapid growth, aggressive roots, weak wood and extreme thirst, as opposed to a garden or most any urban setting.

more seating for classes…native sandstone

Clark County Wetlands Park is not a natural area, but it’s close by.

Someone figured out the connections and patterns allowing human-made riparian zones to better emulate the beauty of the wilds – the few places we can find wild riparian areas in the southwest.

(update…turns out this was designed by a collaboration between my former employer and a civil engineer I’ve worked with…and even another firm before them who did the master plan, who some I worked with worked for…ha!)

Do you have any areas in your area to visit, developed for both sedentary people and those who get out on the trail?

6 Replies to “Las Vegas Oasis”

  1. we do have a Braille Trail at Kirstenbosch. One side is hard surface, raised beds, and fragrant plants. The other has a rope handrail, with knots to pause and read the signage – that is varied suface, mulch or gravel and winding thru trees.

    I’ve seen Braille and rope sections used that way in the US, but I forget the places. (I of course, started looking up Kirstenbosch, to read up!) Good to have varied surfaces, and where they change, is a good place to hold back erosion, or create a pausing “spot”.

    I think I’ve found a topic I need to glance at in more posts…


  2. another interesting post, you are in such! a different environment to mine and frequently mention plants I do not know, so I sometimes do a search, I just did for the cottonwood trees and found they are part of they the Salicaceae Family, so then I look that up and find it is willows and populars, both grow well here and now I understand a little why,

    it looks a nice area for people with mobility difficulties, I do understand what you mean about concrete but sometimes it is needed, for me concrete is appearing to be the only path material that keeps weed free, with all the rain everything seeds and grows fast, bark is useless and gravel not much better, here they have made some accessible paths from wood, like boardwalks along shoreline areas, through sand dunes, when I was in western Canada there were boardwalks for access through some forests, another reason for using wood raised just above the surface is it doesn’t harm the forest floor or beach,

    you can send us the heat please, this week we are down to 7C/44F, Frances

    Another 23c/74F low and 33c/94F high here…I think we can afford to send you 10c and be quite nice. But that will come soon, at least our cooling. Was an incredible breeze all night, though.

    Yes, all those Salicaceae Family plants are what help regenerate wetter areas from disturbance, and still play a part after other species come in – absorbing stormwater impacts, habitat, etc. Ultimately the desert concept of oasis vs. upland (desert) needs to be used with savvy even out of the desert. Right plant, right place, right treatment.

    I think you’re right, and I need to spend more time with a client in Albuquerque whose back garden was for her ability to use a wheelchair. I borrowed her spare one and with my limited skill, it helped set some turns my tables would have missed! I saw similar boardwalks on trail sections in a marshy area where one of my sisters lives in the Colorado Rockies…lower impact.


  3. This is a fascinating question and one I realized I have no answers for. As somebody who is currently either active or injured/sedentary, I’ve paid little to no attention to the accessibility of most areas, though the Hike/Bike trails around Lady Bird Lake at least have portions that are meant to be accessible, dependent upon upkeep.

    As an LA do you have answers to Debra’s question about materials other than mulch or gravel that pass muster to keep a trail accessible to the mobility impaired? I’m wondering if DG qualifies?

    If I were a tax paying person and had mobility issues I bet I’d have strong(er) opinions. Are your public project parameters supposed to remain within “majority needs” guidelines when budgets get tight?

    Yes, and interesting how that small segue into path materials got more notice than the rest of my visit, but that’s fine. It is a good topic today…just like the realities of upkeep. I did under Debra’s q, but I would add an accessible material or even space is subject to the local municipality, even the whims of the reviewers. The few times I’m engaged / appreciated to do site planning and hardscape instead of just “shrubbing-up”, important areas are always accessible no matter the budget, not just majority’s needs.

    Though that reality is not all public projects are accessible in every access route, nor can they be. Imagine public open space where I mountain bike, let alone hike, be even partly accessible.

    If I had such a project – and a visionary, quality client (very important) – I would put out my personal conviction, and create some sizeable areas that are accessible, meaning enough to capture the essence of a place and it’s solitude or spirit, like what I get to do all the time. I think that’s often missing.

    Again, rigid rules / codes that don’t better connect all realities – or help form them – are a big fault. Most are by people who want to control and lack experience.


  4. Dave – Design Workshop did the overall plan for this project; don’t know where the division between the architecture by DPS and the work by DW occurred.

    Thanks, CC. That made me do some searching for that on their website, at least it was on a brochure in Spanish…1995 is the date I read for their master plan. This was in the making a long time, but good results. I wonder how much it is like the original vision? It will take a few more trips to explore more of it.


  5. The cottonwood is a nice choice for a desert riparian area. Cottonwood is a wildlife favourite and especially important for honey bees. And just look at the beautiful shade. I hate concrete with a rabid kind of passion. I have been wondering a lot lately about trails and ADA accessibility. At our reparian restoration project we sometimes mulch with shredded bark donated by the city but that clearly is not going to welcome people with mobility issues. We’ve thought about gravel but the group dismissed that material for a variety of reasons. Not sure what other options are out there …

    Good points, too…not to mention room when they shed limbs. A place for most everything. Your predicament is becoming more common in some places – it’s not always ADA, but local/state governments. Like this, which happens to be near you –

    Where I am in El Paso also goes with the TDLR-requirements that inform Austin’s, so did Albuquerque years ago. Yet California uses stabilized aggregate / gravel parking at some beach access and has for decades. Only in playgrounds here, could we used engineered wood fibers, but those are much more expensive than gravel. Ultimately, when such regs come in, it’s concrete or asphalt.


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