Monday, February 3, 2014

Rio Salado Audubon Center

      Downtown Phoenix has many opportunities for fun, recreational activities for the whole family.  And one of the most surprising and rewarding of those recreational offerings must surely be the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center.  This downtown nature center is found in the heart of the city’s Rio Salado Restoration Area, a 595-acre park that is located along the south side of the Salt River between 19th Avenue and 28th Street.
    Located less than two miles south of the heart of downtown Phoenix, this Sonoran Desert riparian habitat has been replanted with over 76,000 desert trees, plants and shrubs.  Five, non-portable wells from an aquifer directly under the riverbed provides 3 million gallons of water each day for irrigation and nine of the permanent ponds found within the park. 
    With a constant source of year-around water over 200 species of migratory birds and other wildlife such as coyotes, jackrabbits, cottontails and javelinas make this wild, urban park their home.  Two families of beavers can also be found within the park’s ponds, a fact that would surprise most Valley of the Sun residents.
    The ecological environments found with the park are a mixture of mesquite bosque, cottonwood/willow habitat, wetland marsh and Lower Sonoran Desert vegetation.  All of these natural environments found almost within the shadow of Phoenix’s high-rise business district.   
    For the past 5 years this newly revised habitat along the Salt River has become home to migrating Monarch butterflies, who like many humans, have found Phoenix November – February temperatures to be a nice place to over-winter. January is the perfect time to view and enjoy these most beautiful and graceful winter visitors as well as the many migratory water birds that are now found within the park boundaries.
    Since opening in October 2009 the Rio Salado Audubon Center has become a magnet for anyone wishing to learn about and enjoy the Salt River environment of the 1860s.  It also serves as the Arizona offices of the National Audubon Society.  Admission is always FREE and the center offers interactive exhibits, an interpretive loop, a variety of hands-on nature programs, as well as guided school and scout field trips.  Guided bird walks happen every Saturday at 8 am, an Animal Encounter workshop the second Saturday of the month at 11 am, and the unique Birds ‘n Beer workshop on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 5:30 pm.
    From the nature center trails connect to over 16 miles of paved and dirt hiking, biking and horseback riding paths.  Leashed dogs are welcomed on all paved trails; please remove and properly dispose on any pet waste.
    So as the Valley’s great outdoor weather returns again, let us suggest you get out, cross the Central Avenue Bridge that spans the Salt River and discover the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center.  It is a great place to spend some time outdoors learning and enjoying Arizona’s natural environment.

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