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Saturday, September 8, 2012

A jaunt with jackrabbits at Veterans Oasis Park

Bird of Paradise plants frame the San Tan Mountains
Alas, another weekend of summer high country hiking was thwarted by thunderstorms.  With my Flagstaff plans put on hold and the weather forecast for Phoenix looking pretty good for at least a few hours in the morning, I decided to head off to the green trails of Veterans Oasis Park in Chandler today.  Anchored by an urban fishing lake surrounded by picnic areas and playgrounds, the park also features a series of wetlands created with five recharge basins that hold reclaimed water. A maze of trails wind among the pools and a variety of vegetation zones---mesquite bosques, hummingbird/butterfly habitats, chaparral and water-loving riparian plant populations keep things interesting.  Two hilltop viewing areas provide good overviews of the site and the swarms of waterfowl that nest in the shallow basins.  The lake circumference trail is paved and barrier-free while the wetland trails are level dirt/gravel.  An unexpected delight on the trails were the dozens of Black-tailed jackrabbits playing hide-and-seek with my camera. I had a blast photographing them as well as myriad vociferous birds and a flock of Turkey vultures soaring above the wetlands.
LENGTH: 4.5 miles of inter-connected trails
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 1270' -1311'
FACILITIES: restrooms, drinking fountains, horse watering station, dog poo bag posts
DOGS: must be on leash and kept out of the water
Park: 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily
Preserve: 6 a.m. to sunset daily
Environmental Education Center: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday and Friday, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Thursday.  Closed weekends and holidays.
FREE admission
Great Blue Heron (left) looks over a  recharge basin

From Phoenix, travel east on Loop 202 to exit 44 for Gilbert Road.  Go 3 miles south to Chandler Heights Road, turn east (left) and continue 1 mile to just past Lindsay Road.  The entrance is on the north (left) side of Chandler Heights Road.
4050 E. Chandler Heights Road, Chandler, AZ 85249,
INFO: City of Chandler, 480-782-2890

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