Just short of an hour drive from Tucson, deep in the Sonoran Desert one might not expect to find much more than some assorted cacti and annoying gnats. However, after following that exact path, we made it to what is known simply as the “Desert Museum,” and although the name may sound overly academic, I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be essentially an expansive zoo.

In it, the curators of the area had encapsulated many of the wonders of the surrounding desert into one, easily accessible location. With a focus on preservation and education, the zoo provided us with an intriguing look into ecology of the area in which we would be staying for the next week. Not only were there plenty of local animals to be observed, but the Museum also had a plethora of flora and minerals on display. Overall, the stop was not only overwhelmingly enjoyable, but informational providing us with important information about the surrounding environment.

5 Replies to “Oasis”

  1. I loved the Desert Museum! It amazed me that there could be a zoo so far out in the middle of the desert but still host to such extensive wildlife. I got an awesome video of the mountain lion about 5 feet away from me behind glass, and got to see some insane snakes and spiders in the indoor exhibit. None of those things were my favorite though. Around the museum, there were squirrels (I think they were squirrels anyways) that had absolutely no fear of people. They were walking around less than a foot away from my shoes!

  2. The Desert Museum really broke away from what I normally conceptualize as a museum. I have to admit that I thought we were going to go to some large building possibly filled with information about how people have survived in the desert for so many centuries, photos of common animals, and things like that. I definitely was not expecting essentially a curated nature walk that allowed you to interact with the typical animals of the area! Suffice it to say, it was far more enjoyable than I was anticipating.

  3. Glad you all liked the Desert Museum. Despite the fact it has some of the same problems as other zoos, it offers a little more freedom to its inhabitants. The collections of desert flora are outstanding.

  4. The desert museum was cool as hell. The thing that set it apart from other museums and botanical gardens is that it showcased the plants and animals of the desert. All the species were endemic to the region, as opposed to botanical gardens or museums that bring in items from around the world. In that way it was actually able to showcase the biodiversity of the region, which helps to give an idea about truly how interconnected the region is because there are so many different species that fit so many different niches. Just because it is the desert does not mean that it is barren, but that things have evolved to survive with limited water. It is still amazing to see how many plants and animals have discovered how to adapt and thrive to these conditions. It’s worrisome to think about how the effects of climate change might impact these species that are already surviving with so little water and resources. Some of them are likely not to survive if the trend toward less water and more heat continues. It’s great that the Desert Museum exists to preserve all of these species and demonstrate to people the biodiversity of the region.

  5. I’m glad you all liked the Desert Museum. I have some of the same mixed feeling about the animal exhibits as Harvey. (I spent a long time there watching a very lonely otter eat her dinner) But overall I love that place and it comes down to what Eric emphasized in his comment here. Almost everything you see so nicely laid out and labeled in the exhibits can be found in the Sonoran desert region – or at least could have been found there 150 year ago. Then once you start hiking around that area, you’ve kind of been trained by the Desert Museum to recognize all those different cacti, the hummingbirds, etc.

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