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Riparian Reserve at Water Ranch

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

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What is the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch?

The Town of Gilbert, Arizona’s unique community attraction celebrating the preservation of the great outdoors Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, was developed in 1999 to provide a combination of three functions. A recreational and educational area, a facility for water reclamation, and a wildlife habitat.

Recreational & Educational Area

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ, offers a multitude of recreational and educational opportunities for all ages. There are over four and a half miles of trails throughout, with several interpretive education panels on vegetation and wildlife along the walkways. Other educational spaces include a hilltop outdoor classroom, dinosaur dig site, a state-of-the-art observatory, and hummingbird plus butterfly gardens, to name a few. The Gilbert Trail System connects with the Preserve’s trails, which allows for hikers, casual walkers, leashed and behaved dogs, also horses on specific equestrian trails. There are seating and viewing areas along the Preserve’s paths. Restrooms and drinking fountains are also onsite. Several ramadas and campsites for group gatherings are available by reservation. Another huge recreational benefit offered is the Water Ranch Lake for fishing. As a part of the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Community Fishing Program, those looking to fish for Rainbow Trout, Sunfish, Largemouth Bass, and Farm-raised Channel Catfish can do so with a proper fishing license.

Water Reclamation Facility

Seventy acres of the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ’s 110 total acres, comprises seven water recharge basins for 100% of Gilbert’s treated effluent water, each filled on a rotating basis. For those of you, like me, who feel compelled to Google the word effluent to get a better understanding of its meaning, this is for you. Per Wikipedia, “Effluent is an outflowing of water or gas to a natural body of water, from a structure such as a wastewater treatment plant, sewer pipe, or industrial outfall.” In addition to the seven percolating ponds, there is also a recreational urban fishing lake filled with reclaimed water. Also, one of the ponds contains a unique, desert-like distribution stream. The Water Ranch in the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch combines the Town of Gilbert Drinking Water Treatment Plant, the Southeast Regional Library building, Fire Station, Nichols Park, and the Salt River Project Eastern Canal. The Water Ranch property stretches from Greenfield Road east to Higley Road, containing most of the land between Guadalupe Road and the utility easement.

Wildlife Habitat

Arizona wildlife, including birds, butterflies, insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and mammals, call Gibert’s Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch home in its various vegetative zones of native riparian, marshlands and upland vegetation areas. Let’s delve into the birds a little more; the Preserve is a bird watchers paradise with nearly 300 species of birds identified. The National Audubon Society has also designated the Riparian Preserve as an Important Bird Area in Arizona. Plus, there is a designated garden exclusively for hummingbirds and butterflies. For a close-up view of fish and ducks, the urban recreational lake provides guests with a floating boardwalk that crosses the northern end.


There are a variety of programs from Public, School to Youth & Scout offered at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert. Public programs such as Bird Walks with Desert Rivers Audubon, The Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory’s Skywatch featuring a 16-inch Meade state-of-the-art telescope managed by the East Valley Astronomy Club, Naturalist Guided Preserve Tours and the Outdoor Learning Project answering questions like “Can I Feed the Ducks?”. The Preserve is an excellent field trip destination for surrounding schools to offer a multitude of fun engaging environmental studies of birds, insects, desert life, Arizona groundwater, pollination, fossils, solar energy, and plants. Scout and Youth Groups also enjoy the Riparian Preserve with nature hikes, overnight camping, scout badge work, dinosaur digs, astronomy viewings, and group lessons on wildlife, water, plants, ecology, and conservation.

Research & Volunteering

Research and volunteer opportunities are also possibilities at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, Arizona. Researchers interested in topics like threatened species relocation, a specific species of animal, butterflies, bats, owls, vegetation inventories, soil, wetlands, and tourism trends should contact the Preserves staff Naturalist. There are volunteer opportunities for those dedicated to seeing the Riparian Preserve flourish. Further information at Gilbert’s Parks and Recreation Department as well as Volunteer Stewardship, Eagle Scout Project Opportunites, and Children’s Programs.

Photo Opportunities

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert, AZ, offers a fantastic place as a wildlife habitat, water reclamation facility, and community recreational go-to spot. Still, there are extra benefits to be enjoyed. The Preserve might be the place for you if you’re looking for the perfect backdrop for a family or special event portrait. Or perhaps you’re adding to your nature photography portfolio. It might be safe to say many of us are looking for ways to make our Instagram pop. Can you say fascinating wildlife, stunning sunsets, gorgeous waterways, tranquil colors, and light? Yes, yes, you can. The bottom line is that there are multiple dynamic photo opportunities for cell phone cameras, as well as novice and professional photographers at Gilbert’s Riparian Preserve.

Hours & Parking

The Gilbert Parks and Recreation Department manages the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. Hours are from 5:30 am to 10:00 pm, with the habitat area open dawn to dusk. The Preserve is at the southeast corner of East Guadalupe Road and North Greenfield Road. The most available parking is on the north and west sides of Maricopa County’s Southeast Regional Library at the furthermost northwest corner of the park near the community fishing lake. Additional limited parking located on the north side of the park off of E Guadalupe Road.

The extraordinary specialness of this urban outdoor nature oasis is The Town of Gilbert’s ability to combine uses and transform a space that would have otherwise been a not so beautiful wastewater treatment plant into a beautiful home for wildlife and an incredible recreational area for the community.

  • braunwm
    a month ago
    This is an absolute treasure in the heart of Gilbert. The various migrating and native birds you can find here are quite impressive. There are often photographers and bird watchers here taking professional images of the birds. Young families are able to enjoy the animal watching, get a short hike in, and allow the kids
  • Colleen McBain
    in the last week
    What a surprise - a beautiful tranquil oasis hidden from the busy city life of the greater Phoenix area and a refreshing contrast to the Arizona desert. Great place for a short nature walk, birdwatching, enjoying a sunset and meditating in nature. The huge white pelicans are so unexpected and deserving of a photo moment.
  • We parked at the city library, which is free, and from there, the riparian preserve entrance is directly to the left of the building. It pretty much looks like it's on the same plot of land as the library. There are big, clearly written signs regarding the preserve to help guide you to the start
  • Tom Stinson
    a year ago
    Lots of fun. Paths are easy and well maintained. Nice small lakes with many ducks. Good for bird watching. Several places to park nearby if the lot is full. When we were there it was busy but not uncomfortably crowded.
  • Alejandro Reyes
    2 months ago
    A nice place to take your kid, a date, or someone from out of town. There is lots of waterfowl to feed, as long as you follow the posted guidelines on acceptable feed for the wildlife. There is a bridge that takes you over the main pond that leads to a play area and the

Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch
2757 E Guadalupe Road
Gilbert, AZ 85234

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