[Rare Beer Alert! Desert Dweller Prickly Pear Sour is currently available on tap at Desert Monks Brewing Company’s Gilbert location and cans will be available starting Saturday, December 4, 2021.]
Now four years after the Cactus Fire, a tamarisk-fueled blaze that burned along the Salt River corridor just upstream of Mesa, Arizona, we’re still hard at work engaging our network in restoration efforts being led by the Tonto National Forest, the National Forest Foundation, Northern Arizona University, and Arizona State University. On Saturday, December 4th, we’ll be at it again during our last Conservation Workday of the year, but why so much focus on the Salt?
As it is with all western rivers, there are many reasons to care about the Salt. The river, which begins in eastern Arizona and flows west through Phoenix toward its confluence with the Gila, has always been critical to human communities in Arizona. Before colonization by Europeans, it was the foundation of culture and life for indigenous communities, providing water, food, building materials, and more. Today, it is still paramount to the livelihoods and cultures of indigenous communities, flows through the heart of urban Phoenix, and provides roughly half of the metropolitan area’s water. In addition, the lower reaches of the river provide countless recreational opportunities that are enjoyed by folks from all across the valley.
Again as is the case for all western rivers, the Salt River is important to more than just people – it’s also critical to birds and other wildlife and is home to several priority species. High in the cottonwood and willow canopy, you can find birds emblematic of western riparian areas like Summer Tanager and Yellow Warbler. In the mesquite bosque within the river’s floodplain you can find Arizona specialties like Abert’s Towhee and Lucy’s Warbler. High in the sky you might even spot a Bald Eagle (the Salt and Verde support the highest density of nesting Bald Eagles in Arizona). The site is so vital to the ongoing survival of our wild birds that it was even designated as one of Arizona’s 48 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – the Salt and Verde Rivers Riparian Ecosystem IBA.
So whether it be for the people, the birds, or both, every resident of the Phoenix area has a stake in the health of the Salt River and a role to play in its conservation. It will take each and every one of us to protect this desert river and that’s why, to broadcast the message beyond our loyal Audubon followers, we partnered with Desert Monks Brewing Company in Gilbert to brew our latest Western Rivers Brewers’ Council (WRBC) collaboration – Desert Dweller Prickly Pear Sour. Flavored with one of the area’s most common desert plants and brewed with water that flows downstream past the restoration site, this beer is a perfect way to remind folks that by joining Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network (WRAN), they can take action for the Salt and other western rivers.
Put simply, Phoenix would be a very different place without the Salt River. With a warming climate, more frequent wildfires, decreased precipitation, and a growing urban footprint, our work has never been more urgent. Our thanks go out to our partners, our Conservation Workday volunteers, our WRAN advocates, and our WRBC brewers – together, we can keep the Salt River flowing for generations to come!