Divided into different landscapes from marshlands to typical riparian landscapes, the Riparian Preserve covers 110 acres of land, 70 acres of which are covered by bodies of water. There are 7 different ponds at varying depths, attracting a variety of wildlife habitats including birds, amphibians, fish, and small mammals. In fact, the Preserve is considered to be an important bird area and with good reason as close to 300 bird species have been identified at the park. The preserve has its own fishing lake, managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department as part of their Urban Fishing Program
The park also offers 4.5 miles of trails ranging from boardwalks to dirt paths to paved paths. Visitors can also cross over a floating boardwalk at the north section of the lake, which offers a closer look at the lakes’ wildlife. With just 2% of incline, the trails are appropriate for visitors of most physical abilities. Most trails are also open to cyclists and are pet friendly, with part of the trail being open to horse-riders as well. Throughout the trails, there are various educational interpretive signs explaining the Preserve’s flora and wildlife. There are also a number of viewing blinds for a richer wildlife experience.
This Preserve was created in 1986, as a concept to efficiently reuse the water waste of the town of Gilbert. Water recharge basins were created and filled with treated discharged water which is distributed to the ponds and streams throughout the park. Apart from serving as recreational grounds, the Riparian Preserve also protects the wildlife habitat, conserves natural resources as well as educates the public about Arizona’s ecology and natural history. As a result, visitors can also follow educational activities such as the dinosaur dig site, Gardens For Pollinators, the Valley Astronomy Observatory, and the Hilltop Classroom. It is important to note that Water Ranch is more than just the Riparian Preserve it also includes the Fire Station, South East Regional Library Building, Salt River Project Eastern Canal, Town of Gilbert Drinking Water Treatment Plant, and Nichols Park.
Riparian Preserve can be accessed from one of the various gates, and the opening hours are between 5:30 am to 10 pm. The park is equipped with restroom facilities, a playground for children, and a number of Ramadas which are ideal for picnics. Both the Ramadas and the campsite can be reserved for $22.50 and $45 respectively with Gilbert Residents getting a discounted rate.
The landscape and wildlife at Riparian Preserve create the most idyllic of atmospheres. The sound of water flowing and the chirping of the birds offer a calming experience every time you visit. Regardless of whether you visit in spring or in fall, Water Ranch is marvelous all year round.