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Lower Salt River
The lower stretch of the Salt River, though controlled by dams, flows perennially and is highly scenic in its setting among Arizona Upland Sonoran Desert vegetation. Much of this area is included in the very popular Salt River Recreation Area. Views include rugged portions of the Goldfield Mount...
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Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch
Description: In a desert landscape, water is a powerful attraction. This urban nature preserve centers around two areas of desert riparian habitat that attract more than 140 different species of birds and other wildlife.

Consisting of 18 reclaimed water recharge ponds, the riparian preserve was created by the city of Gilbert to provide community wetland wildlife sanctuaries for recreation, education and research. The preserve comprises two separate properties. The Neely Ranch Preserve is not open to the public at present, but the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch has nearly four miles of walking trails, through wildlife habitats that feature burrowing owls and many shorebirds.

At Water Ranch, the Riparian Institute offers education programs for the public, schools and youth groups. Programs range from bird walks to night-viewing programs to dinosaur digs and overnight camps for youth. The permanent lake near the library is open for fishing, with armadas available for picnics and trails for walking, biking, and wildlife watching. The preserve also sponsors the annual Feathered Friends Festival in April.

Wildlife to Watch: This is a world-class, year-round bird viewing and photography site. Spring provides one of the region’s best opportunities to view breeding activities of American avocet, black-necked stilt, killdeer Anna’s hummingbird, verdin, Abert’s towhee and curve-billed thrasher, to name a few. In the late summer when the desert broom plant is blooming, hundreds of butterflies are attracted to its sweet nectar. During the winter, hundreds of waterfowl and waterbirds are attracted to these shallow open ponds, such as ring-necked duck, redhead, lesser scaup, cinnamon and green-winged teals, mallard, northern pintail, gadwall, bufflehead, northern shoveler, great and snowy egrets, great blue and green herons, and black-crowned night herons. On most winter and spring days, osprey can be seen fishing on the large pond. Other birds of prey include peregrine falcon, American kestrel and red-tailed hawk. Although still fairly new, the preserve has already attracted several species that are quite rare in Arizona, including streak-backed oriole, groovebilled ani and prairie warbler.

Special Tips: Call 480.503.6744 for more information.

Other Activities: 4 ½ miles of universally accessible trails

Ownership: City of Gilbert / The Riparian Institute 
Size: 175 acres 
Closest Town: Gilbert

RestroomsParkingHikingPicnic tablesHandicap AccessibleDrinking Water

Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing:

Verdin - photo by Bruce Taubert
Use link below please

Driving Directions:
The preserve is located 21 miles east of Phoenix. Take U.S. 60E to the Greenfield Road exit, drive south 1 ½ miles to Guadalupe Road and either turn left and enter off Guadalupe Road or drive through the intersection and turn left into site from Greenfield Road.

Map Link

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch : Wildlife Viewing Area