Nature experts will lead walks to a demonstration wetland and point out dragonflies, butterflies and native wildlife that flourish in the area. There are 200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians that now live near or migrate through the Rio Salado habitat. Liberty Wildlife will be on hand the day of the festival with several wild birds for folks to see up close. These are non-releasable raptors, ambassadors for the wild birds that hunt near the river. Representatives from Southwest Monarch Study will explain how to attract monarch butterflies to your own garden and show off a monarch waystation that is taking hold under the tree canopy.
There’ll be more, with artists on hand selling nature oriented works and nature scavenger hunts for kids. I’m hoping to spot one of Phoenix’s famous food carts right around lunchtime. Free parking is available at 2439 S. Central Avenue at the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Trailhead. Join us Saturday February 23 between 10 am and 3 pm!
It was just twenty years ago that the City of Phoenix successfully requested a restoration study of this area. The wide and mercurial Salt River that once nourished a ribbon of green through the valley had become a wasteland littered with landfills and industrial refuse. While its waters were channeled to create a rich agricultural economy, the dry riverbed became an eyesore strewn with sand and gravel pits. In 1999 the Water Resources Development Act was signed, opening the door for funding to help restore five miles of the Salt River south of the city.
Water is once again creating vibrancy in this reach of desert riverbed. Trails for walking and bicycling wind along the length of the project, and the Audubon Visitor Center offers interpretive nature programs. Park rangers are happy to show visitors the progress the restoration project has enjoyed.