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The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

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Black-necked Stilt birds hang out at the riparian preserve.
The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

just might be the coolest place in Gilbert. This idyllic, 110-acre preserve sits in the heart of the city, providing both a home for wildlife and a source of renewable water for the town.

Located next to a big library, the preserve is several yards from the street and easy to pass on Guadalupe Road. But it's worth the turn-around. Even a quick walk through the preserve reveals of a plethora of different birds, bugs, and flora. There are plenty of people around during the day, too, hiking the nature trails and fishing in the well-stocked lake.

The Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory, located on the preserve.

This magnificent urban retreat has its beginnings in

1986, when the townspeople of Gilbert decided to recycle their water

. More than 70 acres of the preserve are used for water recharge basins. There are seven basins total, with the ability to "recharge" up to four million gallons of water a day.

Basically, treated wastewater from Gilbert is pumped into the basins, where it seeps into the groundwater aquifer. Then, the water can be pumped out of the ground when needed. Although the water is treated, the preserve discourages kids from playing in it.

In some places, the water is green and funky, like a marshlands swamp. These are the riparian habitats, near the basin edges. There are nine raparian habitats in the preserve, and six different uplands habitats (the dry land above the basins). A variety of wildlife can be found in both habitats.

The "bee garden" at the preserve. There are also butterfly and hummingbird gardens.

Black-necked Stilt birds congregate in the low wetlands, while hummingbirds flit about through the trees along the trails. There are also countless dragonflies, ducks, geese, owls, and butterflies throughout the preserve.

One of seven water basins on the preserve.

If birds and bugs aren't your thing, there are also four and a half miles of trails, pincic areas, a botanical garden, paleontology and archaelogy dig sites, an observatory, and a floating boardwalk (bridge) over the lake.

The Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch is located at 2757 E. Guadalupe Road in Gilbert. Call 480-503-6744 or visit www.reparianinstitute.org for more information.

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