Caption: A tour of the restored habitat
The trailheads listed below provide access to the paved trails. We also recommend calling the Ranger Office at (602) 262-6863 or (602) 262-6713 (tty) with any questions or concerns before heading out to the area.
All trailhead parking areas are open from sunrise to sunset, or to 7 p.m.; whichever comes first seasonally:
- 2439 S. Central Ave. (Northeast corner)
- 3212 S. 7th Ave. (Southwest corner)
- 2801 S. 7th Ave. (Equestrian Staging)
- 2875 S. 7th St. (Southeast corner)
- 3203 S. 16th St. (Southeast corner)
While visiting Rio Salado, please remember that the area is a habitat restoration project; remain on designated trails, do not enter the ponds or river channel, remove rocks or flowers, disturb wildlife, throw rocks into ponds, and keep dogs on leashes on the hard surface (asphalt trails).
Please note that leashed dogs are allowed on the hard surface (asphalt) trails only. The primary goal of the project is to re-establish sensitive riparian habitat that disappeared from the Valley decades ago. Please do your part to allow the habitat to thrive and grow by keeping your dog on a leash and removing and properly disposing of all pet waste.
Caption: Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center
Opened in October 2009, the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center is a nature center in the heart of the City of Phoenix’s Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, a 600-acre park along the historic Salt River. Located less then two miles from downtown Phoenix, the Center is a gateway to a lush Sonoran riparian habitat used by over 200 species of birds and other wildlife—beavers, muskrats, coyotes, jackrabbits, cottontails, and javelinas—to name a few.
The free admission Center offers interactive exhibits, an interpretive loop, connections to the Rio Salado Habitat’s sixteen miles of hiking and riding trails and a variety of hands-on nature programs, including beginning birding classes and bird walks, school field trip programs and more. Address: 3131 S. Central Ave, Phoenix, 85040, (602) 468-6470.
Rio Salado Habit Restoration Area’s Monarch Habitat has been selected as one of three recipients of the Pennies for the Planet Campaign this year! How can YOU help the monarch butterflies at Rio Salado?
See: http://www.togethergreen.org/P4P/arizona.aspx or http://www.facebook.com/penniesfortheplanet#!/penniesfortheplanet?v=wall today and join in the fun!
Caption: Milkweed was planted to attract Monarchs
In September Monarchs were spotted returning to Rio Salado for the fifth consecutive year. Record heat tipping 111 degrees in September kept the butterflies near the river in Cottonwood and Willow trees to keep cool. In October when the temperatures finally dropped, monarchs appeared near the waterfall and the thicker tree canopy where they have spent the winter in previous years. They have also been spotted west of Central Avenue near the river in deep pockets of Seep Willow and Sunflowers. Recently five to ten monarchs have been spotted daily flying above the Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata, near the waterfall alone.
Last Spring the number of Monarchs returning from overwintering grounds in Mexico and California is the lowest number ever recorded. In the East, monarchs had a favorable summer breeding season and numbers appear to be rebounding but still remain below average. In the West, reports of breeding monarchs have been limited and their numbers are unknown. Likely due to the record heat in the Phoenix area, monarch egg-laying was limited in September but increased as the temperatures cooled in October. November brought a surge of freshly eclosed monarchs and they continue to glide through Rio Salado and other riparian areas in higher numbers than previous years as well as in backyard gardens.
To help protect the Monarchs at Rio Salado 18 monarch-lovers planted 21 Desert Milkweed and placed signs around the overwintering site on December 5 last year. Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata, is a host plant for monarchs butterflies, a place where they will lay their eggs in the spring and fall, and is a common desert plant. New signs were placed in paths that developed in the protective thicket of trees. Breaking the tree canopy can fracture the fragile temperature moderating ecosystem where the monarchs stay during the winter much like leaving a door open on a very hot or very cold day in your house. Your support is greatly appreciated to stay only on the marked trails and refrain from walking in this important habitat to preserve this fragile ecosystem.
What does a Monarch Butterfly look like? Take a look at the similarities and differences between a Monarch, Queen and Painted Lady butterfly:
Caption: Monarch: Notice the white dots are only found on the Monarch’s wing edge
Caption: Queen: White dots are found throughout the Queen butterfly
Caption: Painted Lady: The Painted Lady is similar but much smaller
Educational and Interpretive Programs
Click on the link below to browse or register for programs. You may also call (602) 262-6863 or (602) 262-6713 (tty) for more information. Browse or register for On-line Programs
Group Visits & Field Trips
Educators will find the Rio Salado Habitat a great resource for their students. If your group is looking for a specialized program, please contact us as we can help coordinate an educational opportunity especially for you. To inquire about a group visit or field trip, call (602) 262-6863 or (602) 262-6713 (tty) or complete and submit an "Activity Request Form."
Caption: Learn about the wonders of Rio Salado wetlands
Caption: The Learning Circle left, made of recycled cement, and the walking bridge over the Rio Salado