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Boulder City

Counting sheep: Up-close bighorn sightings are the norm at a Boulder City park

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Inside Boulder City’s Hemenway Park, desert bighorn sheep tolerate humans calmly. Outside the park, you’d never get this close.
Photo: Tovin Lapan

Get in the car, type “Hemenway Park” into your GPS and prepare to be amazed.

It won’t look like much at first, just a patch of standard-issue grass with a view of Lake Mead, a few shaded picnic tables, a bench or two and a so-so playground. But get a bit closer and you’ll see them—the arcing horns, the wide eyes, the herd of bighorn sheep lying on the lawn, taking refuge from the exposed desert.

Bighorn Sheep at Hemenway Park

Sheep from the River Mountains herd have been frequenting Hemenway Park for around 30 years, and on hot summer days as many as 100 animals can crowd the small field, escaping the sun for a few hours of shade and some high-protein greens. If a couple of humans happen to be hanging out, well, that’s no big deal.

“People will go and just sit under one of those shaded verandas. If they’ll just sit still, those animals will walk within feet,” says Douglas Nielsen, conservation education supervisor for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “It’s the only place in the lower 48 that I know of where a person can go and get that close to that animal and just observe. Those same animals there in the park, if you try to walk up to them out in the wild, it ain’t gonna happen.”

Within the confines of the Boulder City park it’s like the regular rules don’t apply. As we perch on a bench underneath a canopy, the sheep spread out across the grass, lowering massive sets of horns to the ground and munching, munching, munching until a ram looks up and meets my gaze from just two yards away. It’s exciting, intimidating and absolutely amazing.

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