Best Place to Go at Dawn

An American Avocet stands motionless in the shallows, its rust-brown head perfectly doubled in the still water. Suddenly, the wide black-and-white wings open and it’s aloft, much larger that it had seemed, soaring in a wide arc over the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. It’s 6:20 on a Sunday morning, the temperature’s just hit 90, and the world is fresh and alive at these ponds, where pointy-headed eared grebes and red-brown ruddy ducks swim with their young in tow. This unlikeliest of attractions—it’s on the grounds of a water reclamation facility, after all—gives one an intoxicating glimpse of all the layers of Las Vegas: To the east, there’s the noble outline of Lava Butte and the red sandstone wrinkles of Rainbow Gardens; to the northwest, the riotous outlines of the Strip. And right here—a refuge. And not just for the birds.