Big Horn Sheep at the Desert Museum

Big Horn Sheep at the Desert Museum

Everyone told us that if you only do ONE outing in Tucson, then the Desert Museum is the place to go. Despite our week of utter laziness I decided this was reason enough to boondock for a few days on the South end of Tucson and drag our rested backsides out for a visit. After all, I love nature and I needed to blog about at least ONE sight before I left this town.

So a few days ago we parked our rig at a pretty decent boondocking location just south of the museum (fear not, all will be revealed soon) and rested ourselves well and early for our trip out.

Mohave Rattlesnake...eeeeeek!

Mohave Rattlesnake…eeeeeek!

A desert bee loaded with pollen

A desert bee loaded with pollen

A hummingbird (don't ask me which kind)

A hummingbird (don’t ask me which kind)

A Mexican Fireleg Tarantula...double eeeeek!

A Mexican Fireleg Tarantula…double eeeeek!

Now I should tell you up-front that I’m not a huge fan of zoos in general. The notion of wild animals in cages always rubs me the wrong way and most zoos leave me somewhat nauseous. But there are a few (a very, very few) select zoos which have made me feel differently. The San Diego Safari Park is one of them…and after a day a the Arizona Desert Museum I can now say this is another.

These spots go the extra mile to create enclosures that are as natural and spacious as possible (in fact the enclosures at Desert Museum are quite spectacular), PLUS they do a ton of conservation & education efforts and only keep animals that (for the most part) are rehabilitated and cannot survive in the wild. Now THAT is the kind of zoo I can get into. Pair it up with some really great docents (just about every volunteer we met on the trail was chock-full of interesting facts and information) and 21 acres of open desert area and you’ve got a pretty neat combo.

Besides the animals, grounds and desert gardens there is one other reason to go to Desert Museum and that is for their shows, especially their twice-daily Raptor Flight. I knew about this beforehand and had literally planned our entire visit around the 11AM (or so I thought) show. We arrived promptly at 10:30AM only to find out the show was at 10AM. DUH!

Despite having checked the website religiously beforehand my brain had somehow deceived me and registered the wrong showtimes (they are 10AM & 2PM in case you need to know). If you want to see how wonderful this show is, just take a look at the pics from Box Canyon Blog who experienced it a few days ago (and yes, I’m still banging my head at missing it).

Despite zonking out on the main show we had a pretty awesome morning at the museum and finished our day with a wonderfully relaxing afternoon visit & chat with the Ducks followed by a famous Sue Banks Margarita for sundown (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about you can get the low-down HERE). The bottom line is, if you’re in Tucson DO go to the Desert Museum…and DON’T miss the Raptor Show :)

P.S. I highly recommend buying the Tucson Passport for anyone who’s interested in the sights around the SE AZ region. The $18 Passport gets you tons of 2-for-1 deals plus free entries or discounts for all the major sightseeing spots the area. You can buy it at several locations or just download the app onto your phone.

An ocelot asleep in his den

An ocelot asleep in his den

These things drive Polly banana's!!

These things drive Polly banana’s!!

A mutated...I mean crested Saguaro

A mutated…I mean Crested Saguaro

One of the impressive enclosures

One of the impressive enclosures

Prarie Dog

Prarie Dog

Astrophytum Myriostigma...don't ask me??!!

Astrophytum Myriostigma…indeed!

Demo of traditional Mesquite grinding

Demo of traditional Mesquite grinding

The Mexican Wolf...what a beauty!

The Mexican Wolf…what a beauty she is!

A local species of Margarita

A local-dwelling Margarita

Species Polly Relaxus...pooped doggie after a hard day in the RV

Species Polly Relaxus…pooped doggie after a hard day in the RV


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40 Responses to A Day With Desert Wildlife -> Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ

  1. Mark Gehring says:

    Yes, we really loved that place as well, particularly the plants and the humming bird aviary. Had a rattle snake cross our path right near the museum building!

  2. Loretta says:

    We are in Phoenix now and will be going down that way in a few days so this will be on my list. Like you, I do not like zoos, so if you like this one I will give it a try. I also wanted to know if you knew of any boondocking sites near Wickenburg. Since we just came from our first Boondocking Rally we feel the need to do it again and we wanted to be near Congress. I enjoy reading your posts and know that you are off the grid most of the time.

  3. Tina says:

    Glad you made it to the Desert Museum–we’d included it in the “stuff” we sent you a while back. Hope you made it into the hummingbird enclosure–that’s pretty magical all on its own! Happy trails…

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, that’s where I got my hummingbird pic. Very nice place to hang and see the hummingbirds. Even a few nests there right now.

  4. The Good Luck Duck says:

    It’s not easy getting good images of a native Margarita in pristine condition. Well done!

    Franklin “Whitey” Jackson was VERY excited to see us last night. I think it’s such a relief for him to not be living a secret life. I’m a community dog! And I don’t care who knows it! He can just accept our kibble without commitments.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Indeed. The native Margaritas don’t often linger around long enough for a shot. This one disappeared only moments later.

      And I’m happy for Whitey. He obviously came along just to train you and now he’s back to his regular job :)


  5. Love the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum as well. We were there 10 years ago but like you I think it’s one of best zoos I’ve seen.

    I’ve always loved your photography, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a posting about what kind of camera equipment you use nor your editing software. Inquiring minds want to know….

    • libertatemamo says:

      I wrote a few posts on my photo equipment a while back, but I’m happy to divulge. The vast majority of my shots are taken with a point-and-shoot Canon S100. For detail work (e.g. the animal shots in this post in particular) I use my “big camera” the Nikon D7000. I have 2 lenses for that one, a 50mm and 18-200mm. For up-close pics (e.g. the bee shot) I use extention tubes on my 50mm lens. They’re really cool and I wrote about them here:

      Capturing The Perfect Shot -> Cheap Macro

      As for post-processing I’m a Photoshop girl. Always have been :)


  6. Maggie says:

    The Desert Museum was one of the highlights of our trip to Tucson just before Christmas. That was one of the reasons we stayed at GilRay.

    And it’s interesting to see your take on places that I have just recently visited.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Yup, Gilbert Ray is definitely the closest spot to stay. We found a pretty decent boondocking spot just a few miles further down (plus it’s dog-friendly!)

  7. Regina says:

    Hello: We visited the Sonora Desert Museum in the 80’s. To this day I remember it as being a wonderful place. Glad to hear it is still as great as I remember it being.

    • libertatemamo says:

      It’s very well-kept and well maintained. I think they’ve done a good job of keeping it natural yet current and modern.

  8. Marsha says:

    I love this place. It was in my Top 10 of Year 3. Wonderful, awesome, lovely!

  9. Suzanne Tate says:

    I am in love with all things Arizona…so to find your blog has been a gift to me! I have been to all the places you mention, so it’s a wonderful recall of great memories. Thanks for being willing to work on keeping this going. I’m happier than a pig in…….umm…..corn mash. :)

    • libertatemamo says:

      Glad you like the posts! We’re digging our winter here in AZ. Should be here in SE for at least another month so lots more AZ goodness coming.

  10. RV AJ says:

    Thats really neat. I am going to have a look next time I am in tuscon.

  11. Sherry says:

    Thanks to you, I’m piling up the suggestions for a future trip to the desert trip,

    • libertatemamo says:

      Good!! There are actually a TON of other really neat places to visit in Tucson including the Pima Air Museum, Mission San Xavier Del Bac, Titan Missile Museum, Bioshpere 2 etc. The Tucson Passport that I wrote about above gives access to many of these places at a discount.

  12. LuAnn says:

    We aren’t zoo folks either but really enjoyed this attraction. Sorry to hear that you weren’t able to catch the Raptors in Flight. It was a great program. Great photos as always Nina. :)

  13. I agree totally agree, this is the museum or zoo or something to do and see while in Tucson. We were also late on the Raptor Flight tour and went instead on the other one and love it as well. Thanks for the memories.

    • libertatemamo says:

      I remember you guys did a whirlwind of sightseeing here…AND hiking! I’m going to have to refer back to your blog for places to go when we come back to the area.

  14. Sue says:

    Hmmmm. Are you sure you didn’t share any libations with Miss Polly? She looks zoned out!

  15. Well, don’t feel bad…we missed the Raptor Flight too. Guess it just gives us both a reason to return one day! Great images today, BTW!

    • libertatemamo says:

      Well I’m happy to hear we’re not the only ones who missed it :) It IS a good reason to come back!

  16. RJRVtravels says:

    Nina, we were there last weekend – highlight was watching a mom humming bird feed her young. If you are still in the area and have not visited the Mission San Xavier del Bac – I think you will like it – very interesting. Our post is here.

    • libertatemamo says:

      We didn’t make it to the Mission this time around. It was one of the many thing “on the list” that we didn’t get round to. A good reason to come back.

  17. […] ← A Day With Desert Wildlife -> Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ […]

  18. placestheygo says:

    We really enjoyed the museum, as well. Missed that crested! But did see the one outside the entrance.

    Sounds like life continues to treat you well:)

    We will blog again soon. We had no data in Valley of Fire.

    • libertatemamo says:

      Looking forward to your blog posts. Valley of Fire and that whole area is potentially on our list to go later this year.

  19. Janet says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the zoo thing. But this Museum looks like a wonderful stop. Thanks for sharing it so we could add to our list of things to look for out West!

  20. Peter says:

    I totaly agree its a beautifull place!

  21. Richard and Sue says:

    Are the dogs allowed on leash in the museum? If not, what did you do with yours?

    • libertatemamo says:

      No dogs allowed. We left doggie in the rig and took a quick trip. I think we were gone 2 hours in all since we were quite close.


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