|Weekly Sweetwater Wetlands birding field trip!
CONDITION OF WETLANDS (March 2014): Water is flowing in all available directions slowly as the big polishing cells and recharge basins continue to fill up. There are updates about the wetlands at Tucson Water's Sweetwater Wetlands Web page: tucsonaz.gov/water/sweetwater.
HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION: Road construction appears to be complete! Access to the wetlands should be back to normal.
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
To get there from central Tucson, you can go west on Prince Road (or you can take I-10 to Camino del Cerro and follow the directions below). If you take Prince Road, go west over I-10 to where Prince ends. Turn right on North Business Center Drive. Follow it and as it bends to the left it becomes Riverpark Drive. At 0.45 mile from Prince Road, turn right on North Commerce Drive. Go 0.15 mile and turn left on North Benan Venture Drive. After 0.2 mile turn left on Sweetwater Dr. and then immediately look for Sweetwater Wetlands parking on both sides of the street.
Directions from eastbound I-10
Exit I-10 at the Camino del Cerro (and Ruthrauff Road) offramp but continue straight ahead on the frontage road past the Camino del Cerro intersection. Go 1.2 miles past Camino del Cerro and turn right on Sweetwater Drive. Go 0.2 mile and look for the Sweetwater Wetland entrance on the left (there is a small parking lot on your left and a larger one on your right).
These same directions apply to the Roger Road Ponds (at the former Roger Road Wastewater Treatment Plant), except proceed west on Sweetwater Drive past Sweetwater Wetlands and look for the treatment plant on the right (north) side of the street. Currently you can only look in at the ponds from Sweetwater Drive due to closure activities at the former wastewater plant. We hope the ponds will again be accessible in the fall of 2014 once they are isolated from the grounds of the wastewater plant that are no longer in use. The ponds have been the scene of many rarities over the years.