Gambel's Quail
Bird Photography,  Travel

Sweetwater Wetlands: A Bird Photography Hotspot in Tucson, Arizona

I left a few days early for a photography workshop in Sedona, Arizona.  The plan was to photograph the beautiful desert landscapes and birds in Saguaro National Park. 

While the desert landscapes were beautiful in Saguaro National Park, I found the bird activity to be slow.  I walked the trails for miles in both the east and west sections of the park, with only a handful of bird photographs.

I had researched a few other bird photography locations in and around Tucson, and decided to try them out after having my fill of desert landscapes.  One of the parks that I tried was Sweetwater Wetlands, which is a gem of a bird photography park right in the heart of Tucson.

I hiked the trails at Sweetwater Wetlands several times in both the morning and late afternoon and found the park to have a variety of birds, waterfowl, landfowl, and song birds.

Sweetwater Wetlands Map
Sweetwater Wetlands Map

About Sweetwater Wetlands

Sweetwater Wetlands is part of the city of Tucson’s Waste Water Treatment System.  It is a water recycling facility with running water, ponds, marshy areas, observation platforms and a great environment for birds.

Sweetwater Wetlands is located right off of Highway I-10 at 2511 W Sweetwater Dr, Tucson, AZ.

The park is free to visit and has 2.5 miles of trails.  There is plenty of parking with a second larger parking lot across the street.  The park also has restroom facilities and a water bottle filling and handwash station.

Ash-throated Flycatcher
Ash-throated Flycatcher

Park Hours

Tuesday – Sunday: dawn until approximately 1 hour after sunset when they lock the gates.

Mondays (from March to November) the park opens later (around 9am) due to mosquito control operations occurring that morning.

Sweetwater Wetlands can get busy on the weekends, but it is a large park with plenty of space to photograph or bird watch.

Aqua Nueva Park

Across the street is Agua Nueva Park which is open only to foot traffic.  Even though it is right across the street, it can be a little tricky to get to.  You need to either walk down the street from the Sweetwater Wetlands Parking Lot or exit out to the paved bicycle path along the east bank of the Santa Cruz River and walk down to Agua Neuva Park.

Agua Nueva Park has two nice ponds for waterfowl.

Greater Roadrunner
Greater Roadrunner

Birds and Wildlife at Sweetwater Wetlands

I visited the park five times during my stay in Tucson.  I walked the trails in the early morning and late afternoon. 

I visited Tucson in April and here are some of the birds that I photographed at Sweetwater Wetlands.  Also here is the link to the eBird page for Sweetwater Wetlands.

  • Albert’s Towhee
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Ash-throated Flycatcher
  • American Coot
  • Black-chinned Hummingbird
  • Cinnamon Teal
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Gambel’s Quail
  • Gila Woodpecker
  • Greater Roadrunner
  • Great-tailed Grackle
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  • Lesser Goldfinch
  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Rough-winged Wallow
  • Phainopepla
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Red-winged blackbirds (tons of them)
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Song Sparrow
  • White-winged Dove
  • Verdin
  • Vermillion Flycatcher
  • Yellow-rumped Warblers
  • Yellow Warbler

There are also resident bobcats at Sweetwater.  Unfortunately, I did not get to see or photograph them.  I also saw quite a few rabbits and lizards at Sweetwater.

If you looking for a top bird photography spot in Tucson, you’ll want to check out Sweetwater Wetlands.

Written by Martin Belan

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