Monday, February 3, 2014

White Owl Canyon / Shoreline Loop - 2/3/14

Mr. & Mrs. Great-Horned Owl in Hippie Canyon

Las Vegas Wash from Shoreline Trail

River Mountains Trail

Our hike today began at the old Las Vegas Marina and Boat Ramp on Lakeshore Road about two miles southeast of the Lake Mead NRA fee booth at Lake Mead Parkway. We drove down to the bottom of the ramp and began hiking down by the Las Vegas Wash that appeared as a strong flowing river. The peninsula that we walked out on used to be under Lake Mead so it was strange to be out there walking on dry land!

Las Vegas Wash
We hiked over to the Shoreline Trail and started following it along the lake quite some distance from the water.

Shoreline Trail

Someone has done a very nice job making this trail. It is lined with rock and is a smooth dirt path as seen in the photo to the left. Eventually, we came closer to the lake water and continued around until we approached the 33 Hole Parking and Picnic Area. Before we got to the trail that climbed up to the pavement, we turned left and hiked out onto a plateau above the lake. Back when the lake water was much higher, this area, "Turtle Cove," sheltered many turtles that you could see from the plateau.

Lake Mead Backwater

Now, there are still interesting things to see on the plateau such as veins of gypsum in the rock, gargoyle-like rock protrusions along the edge of the plateau and very nice views of the lake, fishermen, fish and waterfowl. While we were there, we saw a rather large bird "fishing" overhead. At first, we thought it might be a bald eagle. Its head was white. But, after further study, we have come to the conclusion that it was an osprey.

Plateau Points of Interest
At any rate, it was exciting to watch the large bird swooping in for the kill!

Osprey Fishing above the Lake

We circled the plateau and came down to begin our hike over to White Owl Canyon. We could see the canyon entrance in the distance and there is a trail that leads there. When we got to the entrance, we stopped and encouraged everyone to be as quiet as they could. Sixteen hikers quietly marched into the canyon filled with water-rounded corners. We anxiously looked up at the known roosting spots and nest areas. No owls! Not even a nest.

White Owl Canyon Approach

We hiked on through the canyon continuing through two different culverts; one under Lakeshore Road and one under the River Mountains Trail. We took our morning break here before exiting the wash via an old mining road that led up the hill to the right where we connected with a section of the River Mountains Trail. We walked easily along the paved path that used to be the lakeshore road for about 0.7 miles.

Culvert Under Lakeshore Road
Views of the Lake Mead, Lava Butte, Rainbow Gardens and Lake Las Vegas could be seen from the path. One bicycle passed us during this time.

Group Shot Exiting White Owl Canyon Area

At the 0.7 mile mark, the group split into half. Eight hikers continued out the paved trail and found the boat ramp and the cars. The other eight hikers dropped down into Hippie Canyon, a red dirt and rock crevice that dipped below the road. After various contortions while scrambling, we got through the tightest part of the canyon and found the great-horned owls that live here. Both the male and female were perched high up on the wall of the canyon and posed for our cameras for 5-10 minutes. What a wonderful experience!

From this point, we hiked down the canyon to connect with the Shoreline Trail very near the boat ramp. The hike was just under 5 miles with 550 feet of elevation gain.

Culvert Under River Mountains Trail (Lakeshore Road Bridge Beyond)

Squeeze Play in Hippie Canyon

Brittlebushes in Bloom as We Exit Hippie Canyon

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