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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Urban wetlands hiking

GILBERT RIPARIAN PRESERVE at WATER RANCH

The sound of waterfowl is deafening.  Even with its proximity to US60 and a busy community center, a hike in this wetland complex of 7 ponds and a fishing lake mimics a stroll in a wilderness marsh.  These created groundwater recharge basins are surrounded by massive, green riparian vegetation attracting thousands of shorebirds, making for a cool, shady hike, even in warm weather.  Great blue herons, Snowy egrets, Long-billed dowitchers, mallards, grebes, killdeer, warblers and hummingbirds are extremely easy to spot.  Short loop trails with interpretive signs weave among flower gardens, mesquite bosques, nesting sites and feeding grounds.  For hard-core birders, viewing blinds are set up along the shores.  In addition to the hiking trails, the site features a kiddie playground with educational (dinosaur dig, anybody) opportunities, an observatory and a hefty events calendar.

LENGTH: 1.7 miles one-way
RATING: easy,barrier-free
ELEVATION: 1,200’
DOGS:  dogs MUST be on leash
KID FRIENDLY?: yes, very
HOURS: open daily dawn to dusk
GETTING THERE:
From Phoenix travel east on US 60 to Greenfield Road. Go south on Greenfield to Guadalupe, hang a left and continue less than a block to the preserve parking areas on the right.
INFO & MAP:
Town of Gilbert, 480-503-6200

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