El Rio Preserve is a 104-acre site that has served a variety of uses for many years. In the 18th century, Juan Bautista de Anza and his followers camped on this site during their journey from Southern Arizona to San Francisco. More recently, the Arizona Department of Transportation used this location as a gravel borrow pit for large infrastructure projects. Over the past several decades, disc golfers have constructed a series of targets throughout the site, and periodically, the flood waters from surrounding neighborhoods have created a seasonal lake, attracting a variety of migratory birds. 


Physical Address: 10190 N. Coachline Blvd; Marana, AZ 85743



Tucked into a pocket of the upper Tucson Mountains, El Rio Preserve functions as a collecting basin for both run-off from the mountain slopes and overflow from the Santa Cruz River. This confluence of geologic features affords spectacular views of granite and gneiss intermixed with the younger volcanic rocks that produce the vibrantly red hues that distinguish these peaks. To the east is a wide open flood plain of the lower Santa Cruz River, which occasionally becomes a turbulent waterway after heavy rains


- Last Revised Summer 2019 -

Marana has complete engineering and landscaping plans for El Rio Preserve. This site development will be completed over a course of several phases. Currently the below two capital projects are scheduled for the Summer of 2019 at the El Rio Preserve/Recreation area.

El Rio Preserve Plan: Phase 1A includes the trail entrance at the southwest corner of the property, near the parking lot, with landscaping and benches (lower left corner on map). CLICK TO ENLARGE

Phase 1A project:

On May 20, 2019, construction at the El Rio Preserve will begin on Phase 1A.  This project will be built at the existing De Anza Trailhead off of Coachline Road (north of Twin Peaks Road). The elements of this project will consist of a large Observation Deck, for viewing wildlife and bird watching in the El Rio Preserve, a Trailhead Plaza with interpretive signage,  sitting area with benches, native plants and water harvesting basins and a pedestrian walking path.

The Phase 1-A project is scheduled to be completed by Fall 2019. This new outdoor recreation facility will be an outstanding environment for Town residents to enjoy nature and participate in environmental education programs. To date, Tucson Audubon has identifies 238 individual bird species at this great Natural Resources Park. Phase 1-A Ribbon cutting information coming soon.

Los Morteros CONSERVATION AREA Project:

Located south of Marana’s El Rio Preserve, the Pima County Los Morteros cultural resources site is currently receiving enhancements to improve the educational opportunities and recreation experience as a cultural resources park. Part of Pima County’s cultural preservation program, the Los Morteros site and two other properties were previously acquired to protect the cultural resources.  At the time of purchase, protective fences were installed around the site with a single access gate on the southern boundary at Linda Vista Boulevard.

Phase two of work at the Los Morteros Conservation Area is now under construction. This phase will provide at grade decomposed granite paths following the existing dirt trail throughout the site, interpretive signs at key locations on slab mounted bases to minimize disturbance and a new northern pedestrian gate at Coachline Road.  The new northern pedestrian gate will connect to sidewalk and a crosswalk built by the Town of Marana.  This will link the Los Morteros Loop to the El Rio Preserve trailhead and the Chuck Huckelberry Loop.  This project is a collaboration between the Pima County Flood Control District and the Pima County Office of Sustainability and Conservation.  The improvements are being constructed by Hunter Contracting Co.   A cultural resources monitor from Desert Archeology will be present throughout construction.

Review the below “El Rio Recreation Area” map for perspective of the close proximity Los Morteros Conservation Area location. Soon patrons will be able to park at our existing trailhead parking lot at the El Rio Preserve, walk across Coachline Road using the new Crosswalk, and enter the Los Morteros to enjoy this new pedestrian amenity.

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El Rio Preserve offers the community several benefits to be considered in any site plan.

  • Rich riparian habitat for nesting and migratory birds. More than 200 species of birds have been observed here.

  • Stormwater retention basin that prevents flooding of nearby neighborhoods.

  • El Rio is one of the links in the chain of preserved riparian habitat along the Lower Santa Cruz River, including sites such as Sweetwater Wetlands and Kino Environmental Restoration Project

  • Natural land features, like mounds and shade trees, that support a variety of land uses and nature viewing.

  • Site is identified as a regionally important wildlife linkage

  • Any added features must be compatible with the characteristics of natural habitat and wildlife linkage


Development of alternatives for 25-year storm bank protection or a reinforced berm, which will:  

  • Reduce mosquito problems by reducing flood frequencies and standing, stagnant water

  • Reduce the amount of trash and invasive weed seeds that flow in during storm events

  • Reduce concerns of overbank flooding

  • Create an urban oasis for wildlife and residents

  • Preserve and enhance an important riparian area

  • Allow the Town to create an outdoor classroom space for local schools.

  • Improve the Town’s ability to perform routine maintenance at the site



The Friends of El Rio Preserve works with partners to protect and enhance habitat at the Preserve, promote compatible recreational activities, and educate about the Preserve’s unique natural resources.



Parks & Recreation Department
Phone: (520) 382-1950
Email: marana.parks@maranaaz.gov

Development Services
Phone: (520) 382-2600


Send us your inquiry and a member of our team will respond within as soon as possible.