Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum - The "Crown Jewel" of Tucson Attractions
by Thomas Ford
The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum whose 98 acres are nestled into the west side of the Tucson Mountains is no diamond-in-the-rough but rather the centerpiece of all that Tucson and it's environs offer visitors and residents alike. It's is rated as one of the top ten museums world wide and all that have experienced it's grandeur would agree with that august status.
The sheer density and diversity of the flora and fauna, cacti and other succulents is in a word; stunning! The serpentine well groomed walkways offer examples of virtually everything that grows in the Sonoran as well as specimens from adjoining desertscapes - The Mojave to our west, Colorado Plateau to our north and the Chihuahuan to our south.
The painstakingly crafted and maintained "gardens" frame the central purpose of the museum - the meticulously designed and maintained humane habitats for most everything else that lives in the Sonoran; its critters.
From the majestic animals of the high country - Black Bear, Mountain Lions and Big Horn Sheep that populate the islands-in-the-sky which dominate Southern Arizona to the myriad of lesser animals of the lowland bajadas. With few exceptions, if it lives in the Sonoran there a special place for "it" here at the museum.
Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum Raptor Free Flight
Without a a doubt the pinnacle of any visit is "Raptor Free Flight". With daily shows from mid-October to seasons end on April 20, this demonstration is an arial extravaganza and to my knowledge, unrivaled anywhere on the planet.
Harris Hawks hunting as a family group, Barn Owls, Ferruginous Hawks, Grey Hawks among others put on a dazzling display expertly choreographed but their handlers and trainers. The display is enhanced by the invigorating narratives of the docents that provide the color commentary during the demonstrations.
I have experienced these demonstrations many times and I assure you, they are so unique that as they conclude, I feel I have once again witnessed "Free Flight" for the first time!
The Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum has two shows daily at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. There is a railed area from which to better observe this unique presentation which opens 15 minutes prior to showtime. I suggest you arrive early to take advantage of this area.
Another pleasantry is the docents will request all small children be guided to the forward most railing to provide them with an unobstructed view. If you do nothing more while visiting Tucson treat yourself to Raptor Free Flight. It alone is worth the price of admission.
To further enjoy your visit to the museum, ignore the directions that will channel you via the Ajo Highway to Kinney Road. Instead head for Speedway Boulevard as it's western terminus become Gates Pass Road.
The pass was used by the borax mule trains and its summit offers striking panoramic views of the alluvial plain west and south of the city along with broad vistas of mountain ranges both near and far. The observation deck at the top of the pass is the rallying point for Tucsonan shutter-bugs when they "smell" a spectacular sunset is in the air.
If coming from the north, find your way to Picture Rocks Road via West Ina Road (I - 10) and North Wade Road (N. Wade becomes Picture Rocks). Journey through a few special miles of the Saguaro National Park (West) to North Sandario Road - the museum is down N. Sandario a few miles.
Incidentally, the gift shop and book store adjacent to the main entrance is quite fine and uniquely stocked. Equally fine is the food offered at all the museums eating galleries and restaurants.
Visit one of the many gems of Tucson, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona.
Contributing Blogger with Kai Realty
A New Tucsonan and Loving It