McDowell Sonoran Preserve

Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a place of majestic beauty, quiet solitude, abundant wildlife, ancient artifacts, exhilarating exercise and, most of all, community pride.

In an effort spanning more than four decades, thousands of Scottsdale people have devoted countless hours to ensuring the protection of this land, most notably by creating a small McDowell Sonoran Preserve in 1994, with a dream to make it a large-scale, connected open space corridor. Envisioned to be nearly 35,000 acres, or roughly 57 square miles, the “people’s preserve” comprises rugged mountains and adjoining high desert that has been and will be preserved in perpetuity as natural open space.

On May 23, 1995, Scottsdale voters overwhelmingly approved a 30-year sales tax to fund land purchases for the Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve. This vote was followed by additional votes that accelerated and expanded land purchases, including an additional 30 year sales tax in 2004. This ensured the permanent preservation of Scottsdale’s signature Sonoran Desert and McDowell Mountains.

At a time when voter approval of tax increases was extremely rare throughout the United States, Scottsdale’s voters demonstrated a love of their Sonoran Desert, a desire to share this beautiful environment with future generations, and a willingness to pay for the privilege of preserving a natural treasure.

Wings over the Preserve

Newest preserve trailhead wins awards

Dedicated in November 2011, the Pima Dynamite Trailhead incorporated sensitive design elements and innovatively used previously disturbed site areas and an existing power transmission corridor for public parking and access to the Preserve. The site design will provide years of access for recreational users and education opportunities for young and old to appreciate the beauty and value of protecting the Sonoran Desert. In April 2023, the project received two Crescordia awards at Arizona Forward’s 41st Annual Environmental Excellence Awards for Site Development and Buildings Structures and Landscape Design (Civic).

Scottsdale celebrates the McDowell Sonoran Preserve's 25th anniversary (October 2019)

On Oct. 3, 1994, the Scottsdale City Council formally dedicated the first lands for the preserve. The "Day One" preserve was 4.5 square miles consisting of three parcels of city-owned land. Today, this permanently protected, sustainable desert habitat encompasses 47 square miles … about one-third of Scottsdale's land area.

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