As a creative and unique way to combine water resource management with wildlife habitat protection, education, and outdoor recreation, the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch was established. It is an oasis of seven aquifer recharge basins in the Sonoran Desert, each held at varying water levels to create varied ecosystems and attract a variety of wildlife. Approximately 298 bird species have been listed in the preserve as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, and many insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals have found a home here as well.
Welcoming hikers, cyclists, bikers, horseback riders, nature watchers and casual strollers, over 4.5 miles of trails weave through the park. On the trails, dogs are allowed. Wildlife and vegetation interpretive education panels are located along the trails and blinds are viewed along the edge of several ponds to improve the experience of wildlife viewing.
The preserve also has an urban fishing lake, covered picnic areas, a fossil dig site, campsites, and the only valley astronomy observatory open to the public from dusk until 9:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night, subject to weather conditions.
In 1986, in a pond at Cooper and Elliot roads, the Town of Gilbert started storing treated wastewater. Town officials were not shocked that the pond attracted birds, but they were surprised by how many people the birds attracted. The town fenced the pond, unprepared for birdwatchers.
The lesson was not missed on officials from Gilbert. If people were satisfied with a place to watch birds in the middle of the area, why not convert a public works storage facility into an amenity? Along with the philosophy, the town developed. There were no proposals for fencing when Gilbert extended its wastewater storage to a second location.
By 1999, the second wastewater storage site had developed into a 110-acre wildlife refuge at the Water Ranch at Guadalupe and Greenfield roads, called the Riparian Preserve. A library, a fishing lake, a park, a fire station and Gilbert's drinking water treatment plant are also included in the Water Ranch.
More than 200 species of birds and thousands of visitors are drawn to the Riparian Preserve annually. Gilbert does not count the number of visitors, but each year he goes through about 8,000 conservation maps. That doesn't include regulars who do not need maps any longer. In order to better their classroom work annually, around 2,000 students visit the park. To look for wildlife, sit quietly or walk, visitors come with strollers and children, cameras and binoculars.
These amazing kid-friendly parks are just one of the many must-see sights you don’t want to miss in Gilbert, Arizona:
- Gilbert Regional Park
- Freestone Park
- Crossroads Veteran's Park
- Water Tower Plaza
- John Allen Park
- Nichols Park
- Discovery Park
- Zanjero Park
All of these wonderful parks are located just a short distance from our offices located at 1447 West Elliot Road #103 in Gilbert! Stop by for a visit anytime!