mapThe name, Sonoran Desert Museum, is a misnomer, as far as I’m concerned, and I wonder how many pass up this outstanding facility because of the title, Museum?  It is, in fact, a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place! 

For years, we’ve seen the brochure, looked at the website, and said, “We’ve got to see that”, and finally this year, took the time to do it. The Museum is located just outside of Tucson.

What a delight!  Almost two miles of paths winding through the 21 acres lead you past 300 types of animals and 1200 plant species.   From the mountain lion to the scorpion to the cactus, it’s a captivating place.

One of our first stops was the Earth Sciences Center, a man made limestone cave that you would swear was authentic.2010-04-16 - AZ, Tucson - Sonoran Desert Museum  (23)    Next came the Mountain Woodland exhibit, with the mountain lions.2010-04-16 - AZ, Tucson - Sonoran Desert Museum  (27) There are many such exhibits, housing the many animal species in their own habitat.    I was glad for the new camera’s zooming ability for photos like this one.  We were probably 40-50 feet from the bear.2010-04-16 - AZ, Tucson - Sonoran Desert Museum  (29)One of the more unique aspects of the facility is its windows on the various habitats.  For the nocturnal creatures or those loving crevices, you get a peak at them there also.  (See the snake through the glass in this photo?)2010-04-16 - AZ, Tucson - Sonoran Desert Museum  (61)We were even able to observe a sleeping beaver up close in his den though a similar window.  Through the use of these windows and “hot spots”, places identified as most likely to spot the animals, there were very few species that we were not able to watch.

The  number of identified plants is outstanding – there are more cacti varieties than you can imagine.2010-04-16 - AZ, Tucson - Sonoran Desert Museum  (71)2010-04-16 - AZ, Tucson - Sonoran Desert Museum  (62)2010-04-16 - AZ, Tucson - Sonoran Desert Museum  (116)

There are two aviaries, one exclusively for hummingbirds.  We tried to capture a picture of them, but they’re almost too fast for the camera.  Here’s an attempt at one in flight. 2010-04-16 - AZ, Tucson - Sonoran Desert Museum  (106)We attended two presentations, Running Wild, in which wild animals take turns circling the stage, including a ringtail cat and a porcupine.  Two tropical parrots even circled near enough over our heads that we felt the wind from their flight.

The second presentation, Live and (Sort of ) On the Loose, featured a Gila Monster and a Rattlesnake, and covered how to avoid being bitten by either, or what to do if you are bitten.

The day ended with a stroll through the beautiful pollination gardens.  2010-04-16 - AZ, Tucson - Sonoran Desert Museum  (112)The museum is almost too large to fully experience in one day.  I definitely would like to return.  We have lots more pictures!  Would you like to see them?  Click below.slideshow

For more information on visiting the Sonoran Desert Museum, CLICK HERE.