Monday, August 11, 2014

A walk through the desert southwest

The Sonora Desert

The Sonora Desert Museum
Visiting Tucson without going to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is like going to Yuma but not visiting the Territorial Museum or to China without visiting the Great Wall.  The Sonora Desert Museum is one of those must-sees, without which your trip to Tucson would be incomplete.

Located about 15 miles south and west of Tucson on a scenic winding road through the mountains, the museum is a wonderful introduction to the desert southwest. It’s a botanical garden, natural history museum and zoo, all rolled into one.
It has buildings that house special exhibits such as an aquarium, and reptile, cat and hummingbird houses. But it is the two-mile walk through the desert that will captivate you. The outdoor museum covers 21 acres, and is home to 250 animal species and 1,200 varieties of plants. The views across the valley to the mountains beyond are nothing short of spectacular.
Sonora cactus
The museum is considered an international role model for presenting and interpreting nature in realistic exhibits. It was founded in 1952.

The Sonora Desert stretches from southern California through southern Arizona and into Baja California, about 200,000 acres in all. Most of the desert lies in Mexico. The desert is surprisingly green in the Tucson area, possibly because of nightly rains in the summer.
The museum has a live mountain lion and bear behind barriers, but mostly any small wildlife you come across will be running free. Several species of lizards about as do butterflies in a special butterfly garden.  Summer visitors will want to be on the lookout for rattlesnakes, especially if they are stupid enough to go off the path, which is not allowed in the first place.
A path through desert greenery
The best way to see the museum is to walk at an easy pace. Summer visitors will want to carry bottled water with them. Don’t worry about running out if you drink too much. You can always refill the bottle with cold water at one of the numerous fountains located along the route. The museum also provides plenty of shaded seating areas where you can rest and enjoy the view.

The outdoor route is handicapped accessible, but be forewarned, most of the paths are dirt and gravel. Push wheelchairs are available on a first-come first serve basis; mobility scooters are available for rent.
Cacti grow tall in the desert
The museum is open 365 days a year. It is located at 2021 N. Kinney Road in Tucson. The easiest way to get there is to take the Speedway exit off Interstate 10 and follow the signs through the mountains.

Admission was approximately $20 per adult in 2014. Visitors who have a Tucson Visitor Center attractions passport, which cost $18 in 2014 and is good for dozens of attractions in the Tucson area, can get one free admission with one paid admission.

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