Just to the east of Tempe Town Lake, beyond a small rubber dam, a spectacular wetland is sprouting willows, cottonwoods and sycamores -- the mainstay of Southwest riparian areas. Effluent from Mesa's wastewater treatment plant flowing into the arid Salt River bed is being impounded by the Town Lake's east dam and fueling the fabulous resurgence of streamside life.
Drivers and passengers can catch glimpses of the emerging habitat from the sweeping ramps at the interchange of highways 101 and 202. The swath of greenery fuels the imagination of "what if" we restored the Salt River to even a fraction of its glorious past.
Among the birds assembling in the area are Great Egrets, which 100 years ago were close to extinction. Now the emblem of the National Audubon Society, the return of the graceful bird is a positive sign that, given a little money, water and time left alone, nature will provide all that is needed for wildlife to return to the Salt River Valley.