Tommy J. DeBardeleben

Tempe Town Lake

Fast Flight Facts

Target Species:  Different Waterbirds, often a reliable place to find Brown Pelican

Elevation: 1170'

Habitat:  Big lake with a lot of open water to scan

Overall Birding Rating: 3

Difficulty: 1 (Easy)

Birding Type: Easy Hiking

Facilities:  Parking, restrooms

Fees/Ownership:  None/City of Tempe

Closest Town or City/How far from Phoenix:  Tempe /9 miles east southeast of Phoenix

Getting there:  Parking available throughout the area of the lake

Overview:  The Salt River creates this big lake in the middle of Tempe.  The lake is a popular place for water recreation sports and is often crowded during the weekends with various events.  Despite the city crowds this lake commonly has, it's also a good place to observe different waterbirds at the right time of the year.  Tempe Town Lake runs for a little over two miles, which is a great spot to check the open water for different ducks, grebes, loons and pelicans.  Ospreys highly favor this area, and with some luck, perhaps a Bald Eagle.  The marsh that lies east of Tempe Town Lake's east dam has great birding potential also, which is adjacent to Tempe Town Marketplace (a separate hotspot on this guide). 

Birding Tip:  Birding is simple here.  With the two miles of open water, one will have the option to easily walk the entire two miles, which has walking paths alongside the lake, on both the north and south sides.  The south side is a better bet for pedestrians.  A good option would be to start at the marsh area adjacent to Tempe Town Marketplace, and work west for the two miles to the west dam.  A scope is always very helpful here, as many of the birds will be distant and hard to see well.  Keep an eye out in some of the surrounding trees, golf courses and hillsides for songbirds.

Directions: For directions to Tempe Town Lake, this will include a few sets of directions.  1.)  These directions pertain to exploring Tempe Town Lake more in depth, as if starting from the very east end adjacent to Tempe Town Marketplace, where the excellent marsh overlook is located.  From the Tempe Town Marketplace, one could explore the marsh and continue west for two miles on the south side of the lake.  It is a nice walk, and the potential is great for different waterbirds.  From the south end of the Loop 202 (Red Mountain Freeway), take S. McClintock Drive south a short distance for 0.3 miles to the Tempe Town Marketplace, located on the east side of S. McClintock Drive, just north of Rio Salado Parkway.  Go to the north end of the parking lot and park by the marsh overlook.  Get out and bird!  Continue west of McClintock (cross at the stoplight) to explore the rest of Tempe Town Lake.  If coming from the Loop 101, take the University Dr. exit west for one mile to McClintock Drive.  Head north on McClintock Drive for 0.7 miles to the turnoff to the marketplace, on the east side of McClintock (after passing Rio Salado Blvd, which is south of Tempe Town Marketplace).  2.)  Another good way to access Tempe Town Lake's south side is by taking Rio Salado Parkway to different stops and locations along the lake.  Take the Rio Salado exit from Loop 202 (just south of the Loop 101 and 202 intersections) and continue west to different spots along the lake. 


Tempe Town Lake Maps

Tempe Town Lake eBird Data


Scenes and Sights from Tempe Town Lake:


Birdlife of Tempe Town Lake:

Red-necked Grebe (Arizona rarity)

Western Grebe

Ruddy Duck


Back to Area 5-South Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe

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