Hidden desert gem located south of downtown Phoenix

- To get some exercise or check out the Sonoran Desert Beauty, a lot of people head to the Superstition Mountains or some other popular wilderness parks.

But you really don't have to travel far, just 5-10 minutes south of downtown Phoenix is a place where you can catch that desert nature closer to home.

If you've been around a while you know the empty Salt River bed in Phoenix was kind of an eyesore. About 20-years-ago the City of Phoenix decided to see what it could do to bring the natural habitat back to life along the riverbed, and make it a riparian area. It's working, and desert nature lovers are delighted.

In this hidden gem that people forget, you will find mesquite, the state tree Palo Verde, brittle-bush, wildflowers, and all sorts of critters, some of which are enjoying the wetlands formed by rainwater and city runoff.

City of Phoenix Park Rangers keep an eye out on the Rio Salado Habitat area which runs along the Salt River bed from 19th Avenue to 28th Street.

"You can walk along the paved trails, we have five different trail heads," said Phoenix Park Ranger Coy Mangan.

Ranger Coy gives tours and is always around to explain the 600 acres of the Salt River Habitat; it's a story she never seems to tire of telling.

"In one day on patrol I'll see vultures, osprey, herons, egrets, hawks, bunnies, and everywhere lizards," said Coy.

It's free to explore all five trailheads, and they are open from sunrise to sunset. From the parking lot at the trailhead on 7th Avenue, you can hear the big city and see the traffic, but just a few steps away is the beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

"It's where the urban life meets mature, this is the way it used to be," said Coy.

Some of the water comes from the Rio Salado well system. Volunteers and organizations from all over Phoenix maintain the area to keep it thriving. If you'd like to check it out, rangers caution you to treat it like a hike, use sunscreen and have plenty of water and your cell phone.

Online: https://www.phoenix.gov/parks/trails/locations/rio-salado-habitat-restoration-area

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