© 2016 by the authors. Riparian Zones are considered biodiversity and ecosystem services hotspots. In arid environments, these ecosystems represent key habitats, since water availability makes them unique in terms of fauna, flora and ecological processes. Simple yet powerful remote sensing techniques were used to assess how spatial and temporal land cover dynamics, and water depth reflect distribution of key land cover types in riparian areas. Our study area includes the San Miguel and Zanjon rivers in Northwest Mexico. We used a supervised classification and regression tree (CART) algorithm to produce thematic classifications (with accuracies higher than 78%) for 1993, 2002 and 2011 using Landsat TM scenes. Our results suggest a decline in agriculture (32.5% area decrease) and cultivated grasslands (21.1% area decrease) from 1993 to 2011 in the study area. We found constant fluctuation between adjacent land cover classes and riparian habitat. We also found that water depth restricts Riparian Vegetation distribution but not agricultural lands or induced grasslands. Using remote sensing combined with spatial analysis, we were able to reach a better understanding of how riparian habitats are being modified in arid environments and how they have changed through time.