Sunday, February 16, 2014

Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum

Casa Grande, AZ               (Click on Pictures to Enlarge)

Last week we decided to take a break from pickleballing (only half kidding here) and venture out from our park in Casa Grande.  We use to check out attractions in new areas we visit many times.  The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum was rated as #1 out of #173 attractions in the Tucson area.  Well, with that kind of recommendation we thought we'd take a look.

I don't know how many folks are familiar with Groupon, but it's a site which can save you money on attractions and various entrance fees at a wide variety of venues.  The normal entrance fee for two adults to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum is $39.  By using Groupon, we paid $25 for the two of us and were able to pay and print out our entrance tickets online.  No hassles and very easy to do.

The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum is located approximately 12-15 miles south of Tucson and is very near "Old Tucson" (for those familiar with that attraction).  The museum is open 365 days a year.

During this time of the year the museum is open 8:30-5:00.  Maybe we're just slow, or maybe we really enjoyed the museum (which we did greatly), but it took the entire day to see everything and we could have spent more time.

As stated on their website:

The museum is a fusion experience: zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and
aquarium. Interpretation of Sonoran Desert animals, plants, geology, climate and native cultures is
presented in a natural environment:
  • 21 acres with two miles of walking paths
  • 230 animal species
  • 1200 types of plants--56,000 individual specimens.
  • One of the world's most comprehensive regional mineral collections.

Here's an old Studebaker positioned just outside the entrance gates. Although the museum started in 1952, I'm not certain that Studebaker made this car in 1952 (a few years later, I believe).

Once inside, the first area we visited contained the reptiles common to this area of Arizona.

Arizona Black Rattlesnake

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

Cantil (Mexican Pit Viper Family)

The museum has created an artificial underground cave system which displays exhibits showing how formations are created and allows a lot of "hands-on" experiences for the younger ones. 

While underground, Karen got a chance to try out the bat exhibit which attempted to demonstrate how a bat's large ears focus incoming sound waves to allow them to locate prey.

There are approximately 2 miles of trails throughout the complex which allow you to not only observe a huge variety of desert plants, but some of the views of the surrounding area aren't too bad either.

Here we are posing along one of the trails.

Standing on one of the observation decks looking toward Mexico 80 miles to the south.

The variety of cacti are amazing.

More of the trail system.

The museum creates a small "zoo" system focusing on animals which inhabit different parts of the Sonoran Desert region. One portion shows the mountain woodlands where the Mexican Gray Wolf and Bobcats live.

Mexican Gray Wolf
                   A very large area is devoted to the Bighorn Sheep.

.....and a discussion of animals and birds common to this part of the southwest wouldn't be complete without the roadrunner.

Of course, you never know what type of animal you might find around here.  Here's the strange dressing, human type.

A large part of the museum is designed to educate.  At 12:15 PM daily a presentation entitled "Live (and sort of) on the Loose" attempts to educate people on certain types of reptiles. Our seminar today focused on the Gila Monster and the Black Tailed Rattlesnake.

Gila Monster
Here, the handler, has just brought the rattlesnake from his protective carrier.  He was not too happy at this point, but after a few moments calmed down and just looked at us humans.

Probably our favorite presentation of the afternoon was called "Raptor Free Flight".  A group of trainers demonstrated the beauty and speed of some of the birds native to this desert terrain.  With a bit of food as an incentive, the birds would fly at great speeds just over the heads of the spectators and land in nearby trees.

Peregrine Falcon

Barn Owl

Harris Hawk

Here's one of the trainers calling the hawk to him. The birds are trained to respond to hand signals and due to their great eyesight have no problems in spotting the handlers.

We really enjoyed our visit to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.  I would highly recommend this as a place to visit and learn about the area.  It was especially "eye opening" to us easterners who had not previously experienced this part of our beautiful country. The desert can definitely "grow" on you.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

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