“Desert Gardens” may sound like an oxymoron. Red Hills Desert Gardens will clarify that for you.  This 5-acre preserve with more than 5,000 desert plants is located along Red Cliffs Parkway. You can follow the sign off the parkway just east of Dixie Rock. Take the right hand fork and pull into the convenient parking lot. Prepare yourself for a walk through time, with flowing streams as clear as when the earth was new, a replica slot canyon that rivals the ones created when the world was formed, and dinosaur tracks scattered around the walkways. Although you may already know their names, the hardy desert flora in all its bounteous varieties is identified for you.

  

You need to watch carefully where you walk in order to catch sight of the whimsical dinosaur tracks pressed into the paving. (What was that? Did you see something in the bushes? Something large, brown, scaly and reptilian, with sharp teeth? Or was it just a flickering shadow from the setting sun?)

 

The man made slot canyon gives you the unique opportunity to view live native fish through plexiglass windows. (Although when we were there, we caught a flash of a brilliant yellow goldfish that is NOT native to Utah. Some people just can’t seem to read signs stating that no other fish should be introduced into the water.)

Several soothing water features are scattered throughout the peaceful park. You can even take advantage of the opportunity to walk across a stream in a place or two on wide, flat stones placed strategically across the water. (I don’t see how anyone could fall in, but again, I don’t see how anyone would put a goldfish in a native water habitat, either. What did s/he do? Carry it in a pocket? A lunch box? A thermos?)

 

When you’ve walked far enough, you may choose to stop to rest on a bench to enjoy the breathtaking view. Or you may want to sway gently on one of several bench swings along the trail. There’s plenty of room for two, or maybe even three people on a swing!

No matter what feature you like the best, taking that turn off Red Cliffs Parkway is worth your time. It is a beautiful place to visit. You’ll never forget your stroll through the unique Red Hills Desert Gardens in St. George, Utah.