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Tres Rios Wetlands

Tres Rios Wetlands is a wetland in Arizona, terrific for birding.

Welcome to Tres Rios

The Tres Rios Environmental Restoration project involves the rehabilitation of nearly 700 acres in and around the Salt River, restoring a vital wetland and riparian habitat. Located just 3.9 miles southeast of Alamar, Tres Rios Wetlands showcases open water features including large Ponds and Waterways. The site has many public uses such as a riparian corridor trail system, a butterfly garden, birding opportunities and picnic areas. Its waters and created habitat have made this a premier birding area, providing winter habitat for many species of waterfowl in close proximity to the metropolitan Phoenix area.

The lush and scenic Tres Rios is now home to more than 150 different species of birds and animals like muskrats, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, bobcats, and beavers. The beautiful cottonwood groves, willows, mesquites, and other desert shrubs around the reed-lined ponds and along the trail attract many migratory and wintering songbirds. By bringing the Salt River back to the condition it was in during the early 1800s, this project is repairing a natural habitat.

Free access permits must be requested prior to visiting Tres Rios. Permits are valid for six months and allow unlimited visits between sunrise and sunset, 365 days per year.

  • The American avocet wades in shallow water and sweeps its long bill from side to side looking for insects and crustaceans.

  • Look closely and you might catch a glimpse of the American kestrel, the smallest falcon in North America.

  • Tres Rios has everything a bald eagle needs: open water, plenty of fish, and old growth trees!

  • Perhaps this barn owl forgot to check the clock before getting up for the day?

  • This male belted kingfisher watches carefully before it dives head-first into the water for its next meal.

  • Do black-bellied whistling ducks really whistle? You bet they do!

  • Black-crowned night herons are social and like to roost and nest in groups.

  • It’s just another day at the beach for this family of black-necked stilts.

  • A pelican enjoying a swim.

  • Pelicans in the desert? Not usually, but you can find them at Tres Rios!

    Birds of the Wetlands

    Restoring Riparian Habitat

    Most of the rivers in the southwestern United States have become choked with a non-native plant, salt cedar, or tamarisk. This plant was originally brought into this country in the 1800s as an ornamental plant, and for stream bank stabilization. In the 20th century, staff started to realize the danger of importing foreign plants into the fragile desert environment. Sonoran Desert wildlife has lived with native plants for millions of years.

    The plant and animal communities have evolved together, with the animals using the plants for shelter and food, and the plants using the animals for seed dispersal. Native plants are perfectly suited to sustain native animal populations. Now, the salt cedar has displaced many of the native plants. The salt cedar invasions have thrown off the natural balance between plants and animals, making survival more difficult for the native wildlife.

    To reverse the process, Tres Rios staff removed large tracts of salt cedar and replaced it with native cottonwood/willow riparian corridors. In some areas, where the salt cedar is very thick and will be impossible to replace, the river sediment will be dug down and filled with water. This will prevent regrowth of the salt cedar, provide habitat for waterfowl, and offer a clearer channel for flood flows to utilize.

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