Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

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Water Ranch Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, Arizona
Wetlands vegetation and wildlife in the midst of urban desert in Gilbert, Arizona

A riparian zone is the area between land and a river or stream. It provides a unique habitat for vegetation and wildlife. It is not a habitat one normally expects to find in the the midst of an urban centre in a desert. But the 110-acre Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch at 2757 E. Guadeloupe Road in Gilbert, Arizona is just that.

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is a water recycling facility for Gilbert. Waste water is treated and piped into basins to replenish the underground water supply. The system also creates a habitat for vegetation and plant life you might not expect to see in the desert.

Stream at Gilbert Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, Arizona
Stream at Gilbert Riparian Preserve

Walking trail at Water ranch Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, Arizona


Trails through the preserve offer opportunity for runners, hikers, and those out for a more leisurely stroll. Information about the preserve, its vegetation and wildlife is posted along the trails. Bicycles are allowed on trails and sidewalks. Dogs on a leash are welcome. A portion of the trail is designated as equestrian.

 Geese on the lake at Water Ranch Riparian Preserve in Gilbert, Arizona

The Preserve attracts bird-watchers and photographers. About 200 species of birds have been spotted here. The Desert Rivers Audubon Society offers free guided bird walks every third Saturday of the month, October through March.

Spring wildflowers in Gilbert, Arizona
Spring wildflowers at the Preserve

The Preserve contains seven ponds and a Fishing Lake. The Fishing Lake is stocked with trout, catfish, bass and sunfish by the Arizona Game and Fish department. Fishing is allowed as per Urban Fishing Regulations. An urban fishing licence is required if you are over 14 years of age.

Gilbert Riparian Preserve cactus garden
Cactus garden at entrance to Preserve

The Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory at the Riparian Preserve is open every Friday and Saturday evening at nightfall September through June. The East Valley Astronomy Club manages the observatory and schedules events.

Bench under shade of a tree at Riparian rserve in Gilbert, Arizona
Shaded spot to sit for a while

I’ve visited the Riparian Preserve several times and always found it to be an uncrowded, peaceful place. When I walked through the trails, it was easy to forget that city sprawled around the preserve.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, Arizona

Admission to the Gilbert Riparian Preserve is free. The Preserve is open daily from dawn to dusk. The Fishing Lake is open from dawn to 10 p.m.

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, Arizona: Wetlands vegetation and wildlife in the midst of urban desert. #Arizona #Gilbert #riparian #park #fishing 

This post is linked with Travel Mondays

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  1. I love AZ, and am always amazed at the diversity it contains within the state. But being an island-girl-wannabee, I gravitate to island destinations and find they really soothe my soul. Glad you’re enjoying all that AZ has to offer.

  2. Beautiful, what a way to replenish with grey water and create a natural filtration system into the water table and at the same time create a wonderful environment for wildlife and humans at the same time!

  3. I can ditto what others have posted here – we love the desert and I love seeing cacti next to wildflowers, it always strikes me as such a pretty contrast.

  4. Beautiful photos. Having lived in Tucson, I know how important riparian areas are for the desert. And a lovely spot for residents and visitors alike.

  5. It sounds and looks like a beautiful, zen like place. No wonder you enjoy going there. And it’s something you really don’t expect in Arizona.

    1. It was certainly different than I expected. Since it is not too far from where we stayed last year and this year, it was possible to visit several times.

  6. Hi Donna; I recall the term ‘Riparian Rights’ from my time as a Real Estate Broker. It means that a property has certain specified rights regarding the waterway adjacent to it. In Ontario these are often limited by an old statute that is still on the books which grants the British Navy the right to take yellow pine trees ! Their long, straight trunks were prized for mast-making. I share this trivia only to endorse your link between any type of waterway and the important and useful plant life it fosters.

  7. As an ex Realtor from Florida, I’m familiar with riparian rights as well. However, I had no idea that this existed in Arizona! It’s beautiful! I don’t blame you for visiting often. It sure does evoke a sense of peace. Love the photos!

  8. This reminds me of the Bosque in Albuquerque. We desert dwellers appreciate every bit of natural greenery we can get!

  9. What a lovely place to visit. I would visit often too if I lived near by. Riparian areas are diminishing is so many areas. They are so important to our environment. It’s good to know that places like this exist. 🙂

  10. Looks like a good place to go and relax from time to time. It doesn’t look like it’s in the desert at all.

    1. It doesn’t feel like the desert either when you walk some of the trails. But when you look at the mountains in the background, you’re reminded you are in the desert.

  11. You’ve introduced me to a new word – Riparian. Looks like an interesting place that we’ll check out next time we visit that area. We enjoyed a similar place in Las Vegas and people are always amazed that there’s anything beside gambling in Nevada.

    1. There are likely a number of wonderful things to see in Nevada outside of gambling, but few people make it beyond the Strip. We went through Red Rock Canyon when we visited Las Vegas. It was beautiful. Not a riparian area, though.

  12. Wow, that looks so beautiful! My best friend lives in Scottsdale–will definitely make it a point to go visit this reserve next time I’m out there for a visit.

  13. What a beautiful place to visit. You have taken some wonderful pictures- making me wish I was going on holiday somewhere as pretty as this place.

  14. Very interesting! And what a beautiful place. I hope to visit it the next time I head out to Arizona! I haven’t heard of one of these before, so I’ll have to go off and do more research.

  15. Hi Donna,
    Living in British Columbia surrounded by mountains and wetlands, we have much the same beauty, just not a cactus garden 😉
    You’ve included very beautiful photos. Great post. Thanks! Have a nice weekend!

  16. Love this place. Other similar places worth a look:
    Veterans Oasis Park
    S 148th St
    Gilbert, AZ 85298

    Tres Rios Wetlands
    S 91st Ave
    Phoenix, AZ 85353

    The Salt River restoration by the
    Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center
    3131 S Central Ave
    Phoenix, AZ 85040