Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area


Rio Salado Rules & Regulations

Rio Salado Habitat Map

Rio Salado Habitat Fact Sheet

Trailhead Guidelines and Descriptions 

Read about the history and restoration of Rio Salado

E-mail us at Rio Salado Habitat and Restoration Area 

Checkout our bird list!


Rio Tree Reflection

Cottonwood tree reflecting in an unusually calm Rio Salado

The Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area offers a mix of paved and dirt trails. Most trails are relatively easy and feature smooth surfaces and moderate to minor grades.


Rio Salado simple map

Rio Salado detailed map

Rio Salado printable tri-fold map 






The trailheads listed below provide access to the paved trails. We also recommend calling the Ranger Office at (602) 262-6863 or (602) 262-6713 (tty) with any questions or concerns before heading out to the area.  

All  trailhead parking areas are open from sunrise to sunset, or to 7 p.m.; whichever comes first seasonally:

    • 2439 S. Central Ave. (Northeast corner)
    • 3212 S. 7th Ave. (Southwest corner)
    • 2801 S. 7th Ave. (Equestrian Staging)
    • 2875 S. 7th St. (Southeast corner)
    • 3203 S. 16th St. (Southeast corner)

While visiting Rio Salado, please remember that the area is a habitat restoration project; remain on designated trails, do not enter the ponds or river channel, remove rocks or flowers, disturb wildlife, throw rocks into ponds, and keep dogs on leashes on the hard surface (asphalt trails).

Please note that leashed dogs are allowed on the hard surface (asphalt) trails only. The primary goal of the project is to re-establish sensitive riparian habitat that disappeared from the Valley decades ago. Please do your part to allow the habitat to thrive and grow by keeping your dog on a leash and removing and properly disposing of all pet waste.


Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center

Rio Salado Audubon Center

Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado 

Audubon Center Calendar of Events

Opened in October 2009, the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center is a nature center in the heart of the City of Phoenix’s Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, a 600-acre park along the historic Salt River. Located less then two miles from downtown Phoenix, the Center is a gateway to a lush Sonoran riparian habitat used by over 200 species of birds and other wildlife—beavers, muskrats, coyotes, jackrabbits, cottontails, and javelinas—to name a few.

The free admission Center offers interactive exhibits, an interpretive loop, connections to the Rio Salado Habitat’s sixteen miles of hiking and riding trails and a variety of hands-on nature programs, including beginning birding classes and bird walks, school field trip programs and more. Address: 3131 S. Central Ave, Phoenix, 85040, (602) 468-6470.

Monarch Butterfly Project 

 milkweed.jpg Milkweed was planted to attract Monarchs


In September Monarchs were spotted returning to Rio Salado for the fifth consecutive year. Record heat tipping 111 degrees in September kept the butterflies near the river in Cottonwood and Willow trees to keep cool. In October when the temperatures finally dropped, monarchs appeared near the waterfall and the thicker tree canopy where they have spent the winter in previous years. They have also been spotted west of Central Avenue near the river in deep pockets of Seep Willow and Sunflowers. Recently five to ten monarchs have been spotted daily flying above the Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata, near the waterfall alone.

Last Spring the number of Monarchs returning from overwintering grounds in Mexico and California is the lowest number ever recorded. In the East, monarchs had a favorable summer breeding season and numbers appear to be rebounding but still remain below average. In the West, reports of breeding monarchs have been limited and their numbers are unknown. Likely due to the record heat in the Phoenix area, monarch egg-laying was limited in September but increased as the temperatures cooled in October. November brought a surge of freshly enclosed monarchs and they continue to glide through Rio Salado and other riparian areas in higher numbers than previous years as well as in backyard gardens.

To help protect the Monarchs at Rio Salado 18 monarch-lovers planted 21 Desert Milkweed and placed signs around the overwintering site on December 5 last year. Desert Milkweed, Asclepias subulata, is a host plant for monarchs butterflies, a place where they will lay their eggs in the spring and fall, and is a common desert plant. New signs were placed in paths that developed in the protective thicket of trees. Breaking the tree canopy can fracture the fragile temperature moderating ecosystem where the monarchs stay during the winter much like leaving a door open on a very hot or very cold day in your house. Your support is greatly appreciated to stay only on the marked trails and refrain from walking in this important habitat to preserve this fragile ecosystem.

Educational and Interpretive Programs

Click on the link below to browse or register for programs. You may also call (602) 262-6863 or (602) 262-6713 (tty) for more information. Browse or register for On-line Programs

Group Visits & Field Trips
Educators  will find the Rio Salado Habitat a great resource for their students. If your group is looking for a specialized program, please contact us as we can help coordinate an educational opportunity especially for you. To inquire about a group visit or field trip, call (602) 262-6863 or (602) 262-6713 (tty) or complete and submit an "Activity Request Form."

audokid.jpg Learn about the wonders of Rio Salado wetlands

 Get more information on future improvement projects in this Area:

Tres Rios Recreation Components
Design and construction of trails, trailheads and other recreation components at the Tres Rios Wetland project.
Funding Source: Office of Arts and Culture, Water Services Department and Army Corps of Engineer
Contact: Chris Ewell (602) 534-5292

Rio Salado Oeste Project
Planning, design and construction of ecosystem restoration project of Rio Salado between 19th and 83rd avenues. Planning phases are complete and design drawings will be in development for the next two to three years.
Funding Source: Federal, Bonds and Phoenix Parks and Preserve Initiative
Contact: Chris Ewell (602) 534-5292



The Learning Circle left, made of recycled cement, and the walking bridge over the Rio Salado