The Rio Reimagined

Photo credit: Tim Roberts | Shutterstock

Join us for the Valley's most impactful green infrastructure project in a century.

A vital resource

Our urban rivers can be a source of civic pride that connects and transforms diverse communities as well as enhances the future economic and environmental vitality of the region. The Rio Salado, once a perennial river, flowed through urban Maricopa County spawning early settlements and connecting diverse communities. For decades, community leaders and stakeholders have explored ways to reconnect the splendor of the river to Valley residents through ecosystem restoration, flood mitigation and economic development.

Photo credit: Weddle Gilmore | Floor Associates
Photo credit: Floor Associates | Weddle Gilmore

Reimagining the Rio Salado

This historically significant and underutilized natural resource has been reimagined as a unifying public space that enhances social equity. A creative and collective effort is needed to integrate priorities of public open space, environmental quality, housing, transportation, economic and workforce development, community sustainability and resilience.

Sustainable impact

This visionary project is designed to promote progressive commerce while ensuring an equitable, high quality, sustainable environment. Join us in cultivating a progressive identity for our river and its watershed. The time is now to redefine your Rio Salado as a community asset for all.

Photo credit: Tim Trumble
Connecting A Vast Valley

River Map

Explore the dynamic projects and partners engaged in the river corridor.

The geography

The Rio Reimagined project’s geographic span is a 58-mile stretch of the Rio Salado from Granite Reef Dam to State Route 85 including the Rio Salado and Gila Rivers. The Rio Reimagined belongs to the eight communities along the river corridor as they partner in creating a vibrant urban riverfront for the Valley.


Thanks to the early advocacy, leadership and generous support of the late U.S. Senator John McCain and Arizona State University, an active and diverse community partnership has begun to leverage broad support for the redevelopment and stewardship of the urban riverfront.

Rio Reimagined Brochure

Read the Rio Reimagined Brochure (pdf)

A Unifying Public Space

Get Involved

At the heart of this project is community. Check out upcoming events and experience anew your Rio Salado.

Conservation Workdays
Conservation Workdays
March 16. Generally 8 a.m.–12 p.m. depending on the project, but could run longer ( Third Saturday of the month, January–April )
Varies, but most workdays begin at the Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Ave., Phoenix AZ 85040
Looking for an opportunity to make a difference for both the environment and your community? Join Audubon Arizona to install native plants, build artificial burrows for Burrowing Owls, and improve wildlife habitat in the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area.
Birds n’ Beer
Birds n’ Beer
February 21 5:30–7:30 p.m.; presentation starts at 6:30 p.m. (Third Thursday of the month, January—May)
Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Ave., Phoenix AZ 85040
Birds n’ Beer features lively, entertaining presentations about birds, wildlife, and conservation in a happy-hour style environment, with craft beer from Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. Enjoy a drink and mingle with friends, then sit down and watch an engaging talk on a diverse array of topics.
Sippin’ the Spirt of the Southwest
02 24 19
Sippin’ the Spirt of the Southwest
Local Tequila Creators come together for Arizona’s Wildlife
February 24th 2019 12pm-5pm
2600 E. Elwood St., Phoenix, AZ
Local Tequila Creators come together to share their creations at: Sippin’ the Spirit of the Southwest event benefiting Liberty Wildlife, located at 2600 E. Elwood Phoenix, AZ. Who will win this tasty challenge? Attend this remarkable fund-raising event to find out! Arrive thirsty and hungry as their will be food vendors, merchandise vendors, games, raffles and Live Music by Acoustic Voodoo. Tickets on sale now!
2019 Tres Rios Nature Festival
03 2-3 19
2019 Tres Rios Nature Festival
March 2-3, 2019
Base Meridian wildlife area, 7602 S. Avondale Blvd. , Avondale, AZ 85323
The Tres Rios Nature Festival is a free, two-day outdoor event that showcases the rich diversity of wildlife habitat, history, and culture of the Gila, Salt and Agua Fria River system. Join friends and family for a weekend of guided bird tours, canoeing, archery, fishing, live entertainment, food, and fun.
River Rally
06 21-24 19
River Rally
June 21-24-2019
Cleveland, Ohio
River Rally, hosted annually by River Network, is a national conference for river and water champions. Unique in its focus on providing practical education, inspiring courage, and celebrating achievements, River Rally brings together hundreds of people from across the United States and the world who care about rivers and water issues. Join NGO staff and volunteers, academics, agency and foundation representatives, industry innovators, and community leaders for the biggest (and most fun) water-focused event of the year!
Read All About It

Stay Informed

Excitement surrounding the Rio Reimagined is building. Read on about the Project and its positive community impact.

2018 was an exceptional first year for the Rio Reimagined Project. ASU’s University City Exchange, on behalf of the 8 river communities and numerous stakeholders, spearheaded initial project planning and recaps the milestones and highlights of ‘Year One’.
Michael Krause of Arizona-based architecture firm Krause has collaborated with Kartika Rachmawati for ECO2, the winning proposal of the international ideas competition Rio Reimagined 2018, which seeks to provide the vision for future development along the Rio Salado River.
Former U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, Arizona’s first Hispanic member of Congress whose low-key style obscured his behind-the-scenes effectiveness in directing federal money to local projects, has died. He was 75.
In the 1960s, the Rio Salado wasn’t in good shape. It was largely barren and folks thought the river was dead.

With eyes set on creating a point of pride in the Valley, Arizona State University Dean James Elmore and his students devised a plan to reimagine the Rio Salado, creating an oasis across the Valley’s desert.

The plan, dubbed the Rio Salado Project, needed a Herculean effort that would require buy-in from multiple municipalities, the state and federal governments and the myriad of communities that make of the fabric of the Valley of the Sun. The creation of Tempe Town Lake is the only portion of that grand plan that has come to fruition. So far.
The American Institute of Architects Phoenix Metro Chapter, Urban Land Institute (ULI) Arizona and Arizona Forward call for groundbreaking proposals for the Valley’s most impactful green infrastructure project in a century – The Rio Reimagined.
The Phoenix-metro chapter of the American Institute of Architects has partnered with Arizona State University and the late Sen. John McCain's office to create a competition for redevelopment of the Salt River.
Former Arizona senator John McCain’s final initiative before his passing was the announcement of a multi-decade initiative to restore the Rio Salado river, dubbed as "The Rio Reimagined."
In the final year of his life, John McCain pushed a project he said could become his legacy: bringing life back to a dry riverbed that runs through metropolitan Phoenix.
In his Phoenix office, Senator John McCain kept a poster on the wall depicting Tempe Town Lake and the commercial developments that sprang up there after the man-made waterway opened in 1999. Wellington “Duke” Reiter, executive director of Arizona State University’s City Exchange Program, said that when he saw the picture, he knew McCain understood the power of the project.
Sen. John McCain was a trailblazer in many ways, including where he lived in metro Phoenix and his vision for the Valley’s growth.
About a month after he was diagnosed with a deadly form of brain cancer, Sen. John McCain shared with a group of Arizona State University students an ambitious plan to restore the dry Salt River bed that crisscrosses the Valley.

Need Answers?

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions and Useful Web Links


Check out the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions. Contact us for more detail if you can’t find the answer you need.

Useful Resources

Click here for some informative and educational community websites that relate to aspects of the Rio Reimagined project.

Together we can create our environmental future.

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Photo credit: Jon Rapp Photography