Visitors and guests to the Harrah’s Resort and Casino can now find a measure of peace and tranquility away from the noise and action of the casino floor by stepping out to the River Walk that parallels the San Luis Rey River.
Visitors can enter the River Walk just south of the Travel Plaza on the west side of the bridge crossing the river, or just west of the parking lot at the main entrance to the casino
The trail winds along the river northward in the direction of the kiosk, sports complex and Tribal Hall. The round trip from the bridge to the Tribal Hall and back is 2.2 miles – a very easy walk on flat ground that is accessible for most everyone, including the elderly as well as younger children. Those who make the walk as far as the Tribal Hall also have the opportunity to visit the museum on Tuesdays and Thursdays when the museum is open to the public.
The concept for a river walk or trail system along the San Luis Rey River began in 2009-2010, when Laurie Gonzalez proposed the idea to the Culture Committee. “I wanted to give the guests of the resort a different viewpoint of what our reservation, our land, and our history actually is,” said Gonzalez. “At the same time, I wanted to keep visitors from walking along the highway and provide a safe, pleasant walk where they can experience a little bit of nature.”
Chris Viveros of the Cultural Resources Department began to design the river walk in 2010. Later on the Cultural Resources Department brought in an architect to refine the trail.
“One of the problems we have faced along the river is the invasion of non-native plants,” said Viveros. “Some of these plants, like the tamarisk, can take over and squeeze out those plants native to the river bed. Other invasive species include the castor bean and tobacco tree. The other issue we must address on an annual basis is the nesting areas for the Least Bell Vireo and Southwestern Willow Flycatcher. So, we must protect the birds’ habitat during the nesting season.”
Cultural Resources has had a continuing program to remove the tamarisk over the past few years. At the same time, plants native to the river bank have been re-introduced. These plants include sycamores, cottonwoods, rabbit grass, willow and the mule-fat bush.
“We want to give visitors at least a small understanding of the importance of the river to the lives of our ancestors,” said Gonzalez. “Our people did everything along the river – which, throughout history, flowed year-around. We also hope that Band members and their children and grandchildren will take the time to walk along the trail and re-connect to their ancestors if only in a small way.”
“We live in a beautiful valley,” added Viveros. “With this beauty comes a price. We live in a very fire-prone area – especially during the summer months. Hopefully people who walk along the trail recognize the fire danger.”