Our Sunday drive took us to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson. The Desert Museum is ranked on TripAdvisor.com as one of the Top 10 Museums in the country and the #1 Tucson attraction. Unlike most museums, about 85% of the experience is outdoors! The 98-acre Desert Museum is a fusion experience: zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium.
- 21 interpreted acres with two miles of walking paths through various desert habits
- 242 animal species
- Plants from 1,200 taxa — 56,000 individual specimens
- One of the world’s most comprehensive regional mineral collections
The Museum is regularly listed as one of the top ten zoological parks in the world due to its unique approach in interpreting the complete natural history of a single region (in our case this is the Sonoran Desert and adjacent ecosystems). This represents a significant achievement, as the Museum’s collections and size are smaller than many of its counterparts. Not a “museum” in the usual sense, it is an unparalleled composite of plant, animal, and geologic collections with the goal of making the Sonoran Desert accessible, understandable, and valued. The Museum’s living animal collection contains 4,892 specimens of 242 species. Plants number 56,000 specimens of 1,200 taxa; mineral and fossil collections include 16,853 specimens. Represented in the living collections are 110 to 120 species considered to be of conservation concern.
On the way back from Tucson, we stopped at Skydive Arizona. It is the largest skydiving operation in the world, sits near us in Florence, Arizona, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson. Although close to major highways, it is surrounded by flat, uninhabited land for miles in every direction. Visitors remark on the oasis like appearance of the center, which has plenty of grass, a swimming pool, and trees in the midst of an otherwise barren desert. Around the central building, which houses offices, aircraft manifesting, classrooms, and an indoor packing area, one can find everything a skydiver needs. Equipment sales, food, a shower and laundry facility, grassy camping area, recreation hall with bunks for overnight guests, and a basketball court are some of the many amenities. The fleet is led by 4 Super Otters and 7 Skyvans, each capable of taking 23 skydivers to 13,000 feet. A venerable DC-3, once the workhorse of the fleet, carries the occasional load of 43 jumpers. Rounding out the flightline is a Pilatus Porter. Altogether, these airplanes can put over 240 skydivers at a time in the air, or over 500 jumps an hour!