Lake Waco Wetlands brings night hikes back to life

Wacoans can learn more about local reptiles and insects on weekly night hikes at the Waco Wetlands. Photo courtesy of Lily Signorelli

By Lily Signorelli | Guest Contributor

Night hikes are back at the Lake Waco Wetlands during April. Hikers can grab their sneakers and flashlights at 7 p.m. every Friday for a guided tour of the area at night.

Nora Schell, Lake Waco Wetlands coordinator, said the hike started with the collaboration of City of Waco and Cameron Park Zoo’s herpetarium staff. Together, they joined resources to get more people interested in exploring the wetlands while learning about the native reptiles and amphibians.

“The guided hike is a one-and-a-half to a two-and-a-half-hour tour,” Schell said. “But you can make it as short or as long as you want.”

The 180 acres of wetlands offer a peaceful retreat and are home to the Wetlands Research and Education Center, which serves as an educational resource to Baylor and many of the surrounding schools, according to the Lake Waco Wetlands website.

Winston Salem, N.C., sophomore MaryLynn Flowers said it was the perfect chance to get off campus and spend some much-needed time outside.

“I had never even heard about the wetlands until my friend told me about this guided night hike, and I was amazed that this place is in Waco,” Flowers said.

Built in 2001 to help prevent habitat loss from Lake Waco’s rising of 7 feet, the wetlands are fed by the Bosque River, which pushes almost 11 million gallons of water through the area.

“When we constructed this man-made wetland, from the very beginning the City of Waco partnered with Baylor University’s biology department and the Center for Reservoir and Aquatic Systems Research,” Schell said.

In addition to educational research with Baylor, the wetlands are home to many native animals and plants in the region.

Schell said the Cameron Park Zoo’s herpetarium staff guides the hikes because of its knowledge of the native reptiles and amphibians that call the wetlands home. They will be able to catch different reptiles and interpret the species with the group, Schell said.