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.
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.