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Originally published Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 7:00 PM

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Take a walk, or a canoe tour, in Lake Washington's largest wetland

Ranger-guided canoe tours are a great option for exploring Bellevue's Mercer Slough Nature Park.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Walk (or paddle)

in the park |

Where: Mercer Slough Nature Park

Location: 2102 Bellevue Way S.E., Bellevue

Length: About six miles of trails on 320 acres. It's 1.7 miles up the slough by canoe.

Level of difficulty: Easy. The trail system is a mix of gravel, mulch and asphalt with pedestrian bridge and boardwalks. The paved Periphery Trail is accessible to wheelchairs and also ideal for bikes and strollers.

Facilities: Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, a joint project between the city of Bellevue and Pacific Science Center, anchors this park, offering wetland-ecology lessons. Parking and restrooms are located at the education center, Bellefields Trail trailhead, Mercer Slough Blueberry Farm and The Winters House.

Setting: Located in south Bellevue, the park is the largest remaining wetland in Lake Washington, with a diverse habitat of more than 170 animals, especially birds. The slough is a recreation hub on land (cyclists, roller bladers and runners) and on water (canoe paddlers and kayakers).

Highlights: Free guided walk every Saturday at 2 p.m., year-round. Just meet at the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, 1625 118th Ave. S.E.

But the better trip in summer is the park-ranger-guided canoe trip held most Saturdays and Sundays (8:45 a.m. to noon). It's a fun, four-mile water tour on which you see dozens of birds and other animals up close, including, on a recent trip, a great blue heron snatching a fish out of the water, and dozens of turtles sunbathing on logs.

The meet-up area is at nearby Enatai Beach Park. Then you canoe on Lake Washington, heading to the mouth of Mercer Slough, past nesting herons and swooping swallows. You will hear yellow-rumped warblers, black-capped chickadees and other birds calling on both sides of the slough. The ranger makes about five stops to talk about the habitat and wetlands. The last stop is at a fish ladder near Kelsey Creek, where coho, chinook and sockeye salmon return every fall.

Then you circle back. The trip takes two to three hours, depending on group size.

Hours: Park open daily, from dawn to dusk.

Directions: From Interstate 90, take Exit 9 to Bellevue Way; from northbound Bellevue Way, the park is on the right. Turn left on 108th Avenue Southeast to Enatai Beach Park, 3519 108th Ave. S.E., for the canoe trip (preregistration is required).

More information: The canoe trips take place every Saturday and Sunday, May through September, except Seafair race weekend (Aug. 4 and 5). Cost is $14 for Bellevue residents, $16 for others. Children must be at least 5 years old for the canoe trip. Register online at MyParksandRecreation.com or call 425-452-6885. For more info on the canoe trip call 425-452-2565.

For other information about Mercer Slough, see www.bellevuewa.gov/mercer_slough.htm.

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle.

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