Explore the Sonoran Desert in Gilbert, Arizona at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Explore the Sonoran Desert in Gilbert, Arizona at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

Gilbert, Arizona is located southeast of Phoenix and offers a wide variety of attractions, but one of its biggest attractions is also one of its most natural: the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch.

The preserve was created for water management and wildlife preservation, as well as for the education and recreation of people. It’s classified by the National Audubon Society as an important bird area, with 298 different species calling the preserve their home.


The Riparian Preserve is easy to access and enjoy, with 4.5 miles of trails both paved and unpaved for walking, biking, hiking or horseback riding. Plus, it’s pet-friendly, so you can bring your beloved pooch along, as long as it’s cool enough for them (tip: if you’re visiting Gilbert during the summer, you’ll want to visit the preserve in the early morning or later at night to avoid dangerous levels of heat).

Families visiting the preserve can also do a variety of other activities, like bird-watching, nature photography, painting, fishing at the lake, picnicking under covered areas, camping and visiting a dinosaur dig site and an astronomy observatory. Travelers can also read and learn through interpretive education panels posted throughout the preserve.

Two kids enjoying Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch. (photo via Discover Gilbert Arizona)

The observatory is open to the public on Friday and Saturday evenings, as long as there’s good weather, as well as during key astronomical events, like eclipses and meteor showers.

Travelers who have never been to a desert before will find the preserve charming and educational. With Saguaro cactus, migratory hummingbirds, flowering desert blooms and a stunning variety of mammals that ranges from desert cottontail rabbits to coyotes, it’s a great example of the persistence of desert life and the adaptations both plants and animals have in order to live there.

For more information, visit Discover Gilbert’s official tourism website.

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