Swaner EcoCenter guided nature walks, revamped, will return after 6-month hiatus
What: Guided Nature Hikes on the Swaner Preserve
When: 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays
Cost: $15 per person; $7.50 for Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter members and free for children ages 5 and younger
The Swaner Preserve and EcoCenter has relaunched its guided nature hikes.
Utah State University, which runs the EcoCenter, greenlighted these excursions after closing them six months ago due to COVID-19 concerns.
Hikes are offered between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, said Hunter Klingensmith, Swaner EcoCenter visitor experience coordinator.
“As opposed to having scheduled tours at regular times, people can call us to book a tour, or they can submit a request through the website for their own groups,” Klingensmith said.
Once groups submit requests, Klingensmith will get back to them within one or two days to talk about options and collect payments.
These tours, which run between one and two hours, explore wetland science, local plant and animal species, and the 1,200-acre preserve’s history. They are open to all ages — children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult — and can be tailored to the needs of the groups.
“We can accommodate a maximum of up to nine people in a group,” Klingensmith said. “Groups can be as small as two people. We want people who don’t want to interact with others to still get out onto the preserve in a safe way.
The tours will follow COVID-19 requirements that include required face coverings for staff and participants, and hand sanitizer that will be available throughout the tour. In addition binoculars and magnifying glasses will be sanitized before and after each use.
“We want to make sure the tours are safe and that people will feel safe and comfortable,” she said. “And since the guests are scheduling their times, we can cater specifically to what they want to experience.”
There are four tour options, according to Klingensmith.
Wetland Discover Trail Excursion
The Wetland Discover Trail is an established path that follows a historic spur line of the Utah Railroad.
“Groups will go out with a naturalist and learn about the history of the wetlands and the different plants and animals that we’re seeing,” Klingensmith said.
Wetland Pond Excursion
“We have ponds scattered all over the preserve, and they are only accessible with a guide,” Klingensmith said. “These aren’t areas we usually take people out to, so it’s exciting for us to offer these.”
Groups will look for tiger salamanders, watch for birds and learn about pond plants, she said. “This excursion may be a challenge for senior citizens and young children since groups will maneuver through tall grass, uneven terrain and wet ground,” Klingensmith said.
Kimball Creek Excursion
Kimball Creek is only one of the many streams found on the preserve, she said.
“We will wander along the creek and check out some of the beaver dam analogs and look for signs of beavers,” Klingensmith said. “This has also been a popular spot for birds, as well.”
Preserve Boundary Excursion
During this tour, groups take a fully accessible paved path that surrounds the south side of the preserve.
The group will use binoculars to locate birds and wildlife, as well as take in the view from the Swaner EcoCenter’s kiosk, Klingensmith said.
The last tour Swaner did before COVID hit was in March, so Klingensmith is excited to start the tour’s new format.
“Being able to offer a variety of tour options is something that I’ve wanted to do for a while,” she said. “So this offered a great opportunity to start fresh, and figure out how we can keep group sizes small and still give people a great experience on the preserve.”
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