0712 Park City - Water Park
Image: Will Austin

The Water Park

Mercer Slough Nature Park and Environmental Education Center
1625 118th Ave SE, Bellevue

This is a wetland, dry enough for nature trails due to the nine-foot lowering of Lake Washington’s water level in 1917, so the best way to see it is on the water. Launch your canoe or kayak at the Sweyolocken boat launch off Bellevue Way and paddle the 2.6-mile water trail through the slough. You’ll encounter great blue herons and dozens of other species of water birds along the placid channel, and annoy the workers staring enviously where the waterway weaves among Bellevue office parks at the north end. For a more urban experience, turn right from the launch and navigate under the I-90 bridge, where you’ll emerge into Lake Washington. For the boatless, Bellevue park rangers lead paddle tours every Saturday and Sunday from May to September, canoes provided.

The park’s Environmental Education Center, housed in a cluster of delightful modernist buildings on stilts, offers an imaginative array of programs ranging from beaver ecology to rain-garden construction. This park shows us how to live in this corner of the country.