Thursday, December 21, 2006
Reno's Oxbow Nature Study Area
A string of ducks—a mother and three, fuzzy offspring—swim upriver in a line, each weaving perfectly to the movement of the one ahead.
Tall cottonwoods and willows provide a shaded and protected habitat for ducks, geese, herons, muskrats, kestral falcons, doves, beavers, squirrels and other creatures not usually seen in the rapidly-developing Truckee Meadows.
The setting is the Oxbow Nature Study Area, a unique wildlife and plant preserve located on the Truckee River at the end of Dickerson Road in west Reno. To reach the area, drive west on Second Street, past Keystone Avenue, then turn left on Dickerson Road.
The study area is dedicated to preserving the plant and animal life once found in plentiful supply in the Truckee Meadows. To that end, visitors can wander on more than two miles of trails marked with interpretive signs.
Many first time visitors to the Oxbow Area think they’re heading in the wrong direction since Dickerson Road passes aging warehouses, apartments and a large trailer park complex. But at the road’s end, is a parking lot that is the beginning of the nature area.
In 1997, flooding along the Truckee River destroyed a network of wooden boardwalks that once lined the park’s shore. The elevated walkways offered excellent views of the river and surrounding marshes.
The city of Reno is conducting a survey of the damage and hopes to have new boardwalks and elevated platforms in place by next summer. Additionally, the city has obtained funding to construct several new boardwalks, which will extend deeper into the park.
Despite the damage, the area remains a wonderful nature refuge and a peaceful retreat from the hustle of everyday life.
The path to the right of the parking area is a good place to begin a visit since it includes an elevated wooden platform that affords an overview of the entire park.
Interpretive signage explains a variety of things, including, the Truckee River system, the river’s water flow, the purposes of a beaver lodge, the native flora and fauna and how the “riparian” habitat nurtures certain types of plants and animals.
The main trail continues west through small groves of tall trees and grassy open areas that contain many of the elements that make the area’s environment so unique—such as sagebrush growing adjacent to thick cottonwoods.
The path winds through the jungle-thick vegetation, which includes wormwood, horsetails, poison hemlock, stinging nettles, cattails, bulrush and wild rose. If you look closely, you can even find giant mushrooms growing at the base of some of the plants.
Interpretive signs explaining such things as how cottonwoods can get sick (e.g. beavers can chew them up—which is why so many trees in the area have chickenwire around their base).
A few wooden benches along the way provide places to relax, listen to the soothing sounds of the bubbling Truckee River and contemplate the beautiful surroundings.
Tucked into the overgrowth are several marked marsh and pond areas, home to a variety of waterfowl. Cattails and grass indicate their locations.
Guided nature walks of the area are conducted regularly with various area schools. The public is invited to join any of the school tours.
For more information about scheduled tours contact the Reno Parks and Recreation Department, 775-334-3808.