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Heron Haven: Omaha's best-kept-secret for family hikes

Heron Haven: Omaha's best-kept-secret for family hikes

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When people on Hike Omaha’s Facebook page were asked recently for their favorite family-friendly hiking trails, it was somewhat surprising to see so many mentions of Heron Haven at 120th Street and West Maple Road.

Of course, Fontenelle Forest, Neale Woods Nature Center, Chalco Hills Recreation Area, Schramm Park State Recreation Area, Platte River State Park, Mahoney State Park, Hummel Park, Wildlife Safari Park and Hitchcock Nature Center also were mentioned.

But parents liked the short trail at Heron Haven. At about a mile long, it’s perfect for little legs. Youngsters also delight in seeing turtles and the plentiful frogs.

“I loved the peacefulness and abundance of wildlife sounds just a short distance from the busy area of 120th and Maple Street,’’ Lisa Van Stratten said.

Animals are plentiful on the 17-acre, spring-fed wetland, depending on the hour of the day.

“There are deer, mink, foxes, opossums, raccoons, rabbits and squirrels,’’ said Sam Bennett, president of Friends of Heron Haven. “We’ve got a lot of groundhogs. Just everything you would (typically) find in an area like that.’’

Birds are numerous, especially during the spring and fall migrations. Bennett said 182 species have been counted, with cardinals, woodpeckers, kingfishers, ducks and geese among the most common. Great blue herons visit when the weather is warm.

Heron Haven also benefits from being in the middle of the city, Bennett said. It’s just a 20-minute drive or less for most Omahans.

Even though you can hear the traffic from West Maple Road, once you start walking the trail it feels like you are at Fontenelle Forest and lost in the woods, Bennett said.

The trails, free and open daily from sunrise to sundown, are gravel and wheelchair-accessible.

“It’s got a special feel to it,’’ he said.

Because of the coronavirus, none of the usual monthly programs are being held. But Bennett said he’s been surprised by how many visitors have been enjoying the haven during the pandemic.

“We’ve had tons of people out there this year,’’ he said. “Four to five times what was normal before COVID.

Omaha World-Herald: Momaha

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Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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