Skip to content

Gilbert Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch

I have seen a lot about the Riparian Preserve for a couple of years and have wanted to go. But, because my kids were young, I didn’t want to head to an area with water on my own.

But first of all-what does riparian mean?

It means “on the banks of a river”. Which, is kind of funny, because there is no river there. The whole title of the park is extremely amusing being in the desert. So, lets get out our giggles now!

If you follow Google Maps to the Preserve (for easier typing, it will be now known as “Preserve”, at 2757 E Guadalupe Rd) you will find a very, very small parking lot. This parking lot will get you closest to the kid friendly amenities like the Dinosaur Dig, a cool wall to play on and bathrooms. However, there are other places to park!

  • SE Corner of E Guadalupe Rd and N Greenfield Rd at Southeast Regional Library
  • N Greenfield Rd and Sun Circle Trail (Christ’s Greenfield Lutheran Church Lot

The kids booked from the car. It was kind of a long drive from Surprise (a little over an hour!)

There wasn’t a traditional playground with swings, climbing areas, but there was this amazing wall that the kids just loved.

walking on the walls

There was also a cool water pump that kids could push to get water to come out, and it would trickle down. My kids LOVED this.

Just be warned, you might want to bring an extra set of clothes if your kids get into this or the dirt!

We next went to the pond that had the most water. There are seven ponds along the trails, but only three actually had water in them. The other five were muddy and were more for possibly monsoon season and flooding I’m guessing.

The Pond

I thought it was amusing that the Gilbert Riparian Preserves are called a ponds. The Surprise Community Park and Pioneer Park fishing areas are called “Lakes”. I guess there are no rules on sizes. But, this “pond” was much bigger than those lakes.

The Turtles going on and off of the log was one of the best parts of our trip. We quietly just watched them go on and off. One large turtle kept tipping the other turtles whenever it tried to come on! Get ready for America’s Funniest Home videos!

Hubby and Munchie were also talking about all the different types of birds in the water. Many people brought bird food (there are signs of what to feed the birds and what not to feed the birds). One very nice couple even brought enough to share with all the passers by, and offered some to our kids! Thank you!

And yes, people do fish here too! You cannot fish off of the bridge, but in other areas. In order to fish, you need to have a license. And, there is a limit to how many fish you can get per day.


We walked around the aviary area next. It was very pretty, very flat and not paved. I loved how shaded it was. There were some muddy areas, but if you are looking for a great area for walking, this is a wonderful place to go.

I was very reluctant to head here for the longest time because I thought that we would be tipping on the edge of water, loose rocks and possibly cliffs. It is not that at all! There are lots of paths that are clear and far away from the water. The closest area to the water was by the Water Ranch Lake (by the Library). This was the area most people were fishing.

A great look at all the wildlife you can find at the Preserve!

looking over the ponds riparian

And an overlook of the kids walking towards the pond. This was a small area that the kids could go close, but there were just a few places they could go close. The water looked like it only went 19 inches deep.

We kept walking and saw where the water was all filtered. We really have no idea what we were looking at, but it looked cool!

what is this pole gilbert riparian

My husband and I saw this pole and asked our kids what they thought this was for. They had no idea what it was for. It was located near the bathrooms and the water filter system. (hint, it has to do with horses!)

Dino Dig

We came back around and Munchie was ready for the Dino Dig!

dino dig

We loved that it was shaded! YAY. Perfect after a nice long walk.

Dinosaur dig gilbert riparian

Luckily, some new friends were willing to share their toys. That was one issue that we did have-If you walk all the way around and your kids are too old for stroller, you might want to bring some smaller sand toys you can carry with you for the walk. And bring water for drinking!

Right near the dino dig is another bathroom, which is super convenient!

Gilbert observatory

We took a look at the Gilbert Observatory. They were doing a cleaning of it when we went to take a look, so we were able to peek inside but not take a picture (darn!). There is a huge telescope, and Friday and Saturdays the public can go at night to take a look at the stars!

We really enjoyed our time at the Preserve. It has a great walking area which is great for families. The shaded area, flat walking spaces, birds, turtles, dino dig, green space and the fun walls to climb on are super fun for the families. Bring food for a picnic and enjoy a fun day at the park.

The Basics

Gilbert Riparian Preserve

2757 E Guadalupe Rd

Check out the Gilbert Regional Park for more fun!

1 Comment

  1. […] Gilbert Riparian Preserve has a lot of wonderful shade. There are also tons of great places to hang out by the water! While […]

Leave a Comment