Outside of Tucson is a place to see critters and plants of the desert up close. Much like the little kitty above, you can see what lives here. The place is spread out over 98 acres. It’s in a very hot place in the summer (I visited at 105 degrees). It’s a full day to see it all.
They have an aquarium, a reptile & amphibians building, an art gallery, a cave with mineral gallery, two aviaries (one for hummingbirds), a dozen animal enclosures (like above Mountain Lion), cactus gardens, stingray touch pool, and 2 gift shops. Several hourly docent displays are spread out during the day. These include snake touching. Life cycles of the Saguaro cactus. Life in the rivers and streams in Arizona. And they change daily. Well versed people are waiting to explain how the desert works.
The landscape has been planted 55 years ago to represent as much of the Sonora desert that would predate human interference. While not all of these would grow here, they all live in the Sonora desert that covers from the Baja peninsula to New Mexico. Butterfly gardens include non native plants but the butterflies are wild feeding here.
The animals are here by assignment. The Mountain Lion was orphaned. The pair of Mexican grey wolves are a retired breeding pair that was used to restore native range. The Black bear was raised by humans. They live in nice sized enclosures with AC and shade. The 19 stingrays enjoy a covered pool and for $3 you can touch them ($3 more you can feed them shrimp).
Usery Mountain Park is at the border of Mesa and the desert. The park is part of the Maricopa County Park System. There are 30 miles of hiking trails, camping (tents or RV’s), and archery range. It does run $6 to get a car load in.
Every month there’s a full moon. Coincidentally, there’s a Range hike too. Be warned, during the winter there will be 200-300 sets of feet crunching sand and gravel. I only had 60 people with me tonite.
The hike itself is fairly level. A distance of about 2 miles should be easy for almost all who can hike. The landscape is typical for the Sonoran desert. Saguaro, chollas, and assorted cacti. Views of the mountains surrounding the park. It’s silver blue in the moonlight.