Hidden Gems: Heron Haven also quiet refuge for humans

A butterfly rests on a flower at Heron Haven's Butterfly Garden.

After a minute or two, you forget the continuous traffic drone on West Maple Road. You watch the butterflies and bees flutter and flit from one brightly colored blossom to another.

Here in the butterfly garden at Heron Haven, you can forget about daily cares as you relax and take in the sensuous delights.

This is what Dr. Chhanda Bewtra likes about it:

“Heron Haven is a true hidden gem. Hidden from both 120th Street and West Maple Road, it is a natural wetland right in the middle of the city, totally unknown even to many longtime residents.

“The place is easily accessible, uncrowded and a really wonderful, quiet, secluded area for nature lovers.”

Whether you stay in the butterfly garden or walk the paths and bridges, there is much to see. Here are some things to know:

» Heron Haven is free and open to the public, but donations are appreciated.

» Benches and picnic tables abound.

» Binoculars are helpful.

» Paths and trails are narrow, lined with crushed rock or bark and may be difficult to traverse with a stroller, wheelchair or walker.

» Watch Canada geese raise their goslings in the spring, but keep young children away from the protective adult geese that may attack.

» A tiny blind is devoted to nature photography.

» Bring a birding book because 158 different kinds of birds have been identified at Heron Haven, said volunteer Ione Werthman. A birding app on a smartphone works equally well.

» Don't see animals? Look for signs of them: footprints, nests, movement in the water, gnawed wood, fish scales on bridge railings, scat and more.

» Stop by the visitor center, which is laden with displays and information.

Heron Haven is at 11809 Old Maple Road. From the intersection of 120th Street and West Maple Road, go northbound on 120th about 25 feet and take the first right turn — Old Maple Road. Cross the bridge, and Heron Haven's driveway is the first right turn.

Trails are open dawn to dusk daily. The nature center is open 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Email hidden gems to sue.truax@owh.com, or mail them to Hidden Gems, Omaha World-Herald Building, Suite 700, 1314 Douglas St., Omaha, NE 68102-1811.

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