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Bird preserve, gardens give Henderson residents getaway not far from home

Smack dab in the middle of the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, there is no traffic noise, sounds of construction or any ambient noise associated with the city.

Other than the birds chirping and ducks quacking, it is silent.

“It is so quiet out here,” said John Taylor, the lead recreation assistant at the preserve, 350 E. Galleria Drive. “Out here, you can just be away from it all. You can be away from the stress of the city.”

With more than 270 species of birds that visit, along with nine ponds and a variety of plant life, the preserve seems atypical to a place such as Las Vegas.

Opened in 1998, the preserve is among the places in Henderson that can make people think they are elsewhere.

The preserve has been giving birders — local and international — a spot to see a variety of species that migrate through the area throughout the year. Kim Becker, a spokeswoman with the city, said the spot has an interesting history.

“Not to mention it just happens to be my favorite place in Henderson,” she said.

Prior to its creation, birders from around the world would visit Southern Nevada to see the variety of species during migration. It was them who encouraged the city to develop an area to accommodate the birds.

Inside the visitors center, there is a map that has tracked bird watchers and enthusiasts from five continents.

“It’s amazing, the number of visitors we get each year from different countries,” Becker said.

But the preserve also attracts locals who frequent the area regularly. A retired airline pilot, Taylor has been coming to the 110-acre facility for years.

Along with seeing what he calls “the usual suspects” — the same birds that are typically out around the same time — he enjoys the rare moments. During a night event, Taylor had one of those moments when he spotted a hawk on the prowl.

The preserve’s hours are seasonal. Through May, it is set to be open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily, with the last entry a half hour before closing. Visitors are asked not to feed the wildlife, and pets are not permitted.

Visit tinyurl.com/hmr5dqf or call 702-267-4180.

The preserve isn’t the only Henderson attraction that is atypical to the feeling of Las Vegas. Walking down the pathways of the Acacia Demonstration Gardens, 50 Casa Del Fuego St., visitors will see that plant life and trees are possible in the desert.

“There are approximately 300 different species of trees and plants at Acacia Demonstration Gardens,” Becker said.

While it gives new residents a chance to explore the type of plant life that can survive the desert sun, the demonstration gardens are also a place where people can walk around and escape the typical desert landscapes.

Becker said the gardens came about from the city’s collaboration with the Conservation District of Southern Nevada and Master Gardeners. The 2.8-acre attraction opened in 2004 and includes 19 distinct gardens, each following a plant theme.

There is a cactus garden, where people can view a sample of the more than 200 cactuses found in the desert; the Mediterranean garden, which showcases plants that don’t require lots of water; and the native garden, which showcases some of the 2,500 plant species indigenous to the Mojave Desert.

Park hours are from 6 a.m. to midnight daily. A variety of workshops are available. Visit tinyurl.com/huoaxa2 or call 702-267-4000.

It’s not just in nature that parts of Henderson seem contrary to Las Vegas life. Strolling down Water Street and through some of the side streets — Pacific, Tin and many more with a variety of other mineral names — there is a small-town feel.

Water Street was the first street in Henderson, which became a town site in the 1940s to host workers of Basic Magnesium Inc. After the city incorporated in 1953, it grew outward from Water Street.

But the street still exists and is home to Henderson City Hall, 240 S. Water St., as well as dozens of small businesses such as The Purple Monkey, a craft store at 11 S. Water St., and Coo Coo’s Gourmet Coffee Cafe, 19 Pacific Ave. Visit waterstreetdistrict.com.

And on the edge of Henderson sits Lake Las Vegas. While the development has undergone a variety of changes, the area has always maintained a feel that sets it apart from other parts of the city.

During the summer, lakeside concerts feature jazz performances and orchestras that make people feel the quaint area is someplace other than Las Vegas. Visit lakelasvegas.com.

To reach Henderson View reporter Michael Lyle, email mlyle@viewnews.com or call 702-387-5201. Find him on Twitter: @mjlyle.

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