|Weekly Sweetwater Wetlands birding field trip!
HIGHWAY NEWS UPDATED April 30, 2012: Eastbound frontage road appears to be open again south of Camino del Cerro. Exit here and proceed to Sweetwater Drive. If you are arriving on the westbound I-10, get off at Camino del Cerro or Sunset, go left under the freeway, and drive south on the frontage road. For the time being, exit Sweetwater Wetlands by following the detour signs.
Access to the Sweetwater Wetlands facility has changed because of a long-term freeway construction project (Oct 2011 to Oct 2012). Use the Ruthrauff/El Camino del Cerro Roads, Interstate 10/Exit 252 exit. See an updated map for directions to Sweetwater and ADOT's map on how to leave. Visit the Arizona Department of Transportation’s web page for project and construction updates.
Sweetwater Wetland is a constructed wetland located in Tucson between I-10 and the Santa Cruz River, near Prince Road. Built in 1996, it helps treat secondary effluent and backwash from the reclaimed water treatment system at adjacent Roger Road Wastewater Treatment Plant. Sweetwater serves as an environmental education facility and habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.
Rarities seen here over the years include Least Grebe, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and many others. A group of Harris's Hawks is often to be seen in the large eucalyptus trees north of Sweetwater, near the Roger Road Wastewater Treatment Plant. Sweetwater Wetland consists of several ponds surrounded by cattails, willows, and cottonwoods. Ducks visit the ponds while Red-winged, Yellow-headed, and Brewer's blackbirds frequent the cattails. Thick stands of saltbush provide cover to Song Sparrows, Abert's Towhees, wrens, and many other species.
Paths, both paved and unpaved, visit all the ponds and give a view to the large detention basins to the south which, when containing water, attract wading birds and shore birds.
Hours: The hours for Sweetwater had been 0600-1800, opening later on Mondays. There is a sign at the entry to the parking lot giving a new set of (extended) hours. Tuesday to Sunday: Dawn to approximately 1 hour after dusk Monday: 8 AM to approximately 1 hour after dusk Gates are locked 1 hour after dusk. Don't get locked in!! It remains to be seen how "dawn" will be determined, but it's good to see Tucson Water adapting to seasonal variation in sunrise, an improvement for birders!
Note Closures: Sweetwater Wetland is closed on Monday mornings in the warm season (usually from late March to mid-November) for application of mosquito-control substances.
Directions from central Tucson or westbound I-10 SEE UPDATE ABOVE
To get there from Prince Road, go west on Prince from central Tucson (or take the Prince Rd exit off westbound I-10). From the I-10 underpass, proceed west on Prince to where it ends, and turn right on Business Center Dr. Then turn left on River Park Road which loops around the business park and becomes Commerce Dr. Take the first left, which has no street sign, follow it to the dead end at Sweetwater Dr., and turn left. After a very short distance you will see the Sweetwater Wetland parking on the left.
Directions from eastbound I-10
Exit I-10 to the frontage road at the Prince Road offramp. Move to the right lane as quickly as possible and, before reaching Prince Road, simply turn right on Sweetwater Drive. Look for the Sweetwater Wetland entrance and parking lot on your left, after about 0.1 mile.
These same directions apply to the Roger Road Waste Water Treatment Plant, except proceed west past Sweetwater Wetland and look for the treatment plant on the right (north) side of the street. Check in at the office during business hours, and then check out the ponds to the left of the entry way. The ponds have been the scene of many rarities over the years.