|Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness|
Aravaipa is one of Arizona’s most scenic canyons, with stunning multicolored cliffs studded with saguaro cactus rising above the canyon. Fern-draped grottoes, seeps, and springs line the canyon. There are numerous archaeological sites, including a cliff dwelling along Turkey Creek. The riparian a...
Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park
|Description: Only one hour east of Phoenix and two hours from Tucson, the 1075-acre Boyce Thompson Arboretum is among Arizona's premier watchable wildlife spots – in fact, it was among the first Important Bird Areas (IBA) designated in the Grand Canyon State by the Audubon Society. Spring and fall weekend guided tours teach visitors to identify birds, and summertime tours include the popular “Learn Your Lizards” outing and guided butterfly and dragonfly walks.
The Arboretum is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden. With 4,400 foot Picketpost Mountain dominating the southern horizon, a combination of panoramic desert vistas, trails, and desert plants from around the world welcomes visitors. At an elevation of 2,400 feet, native Sonoran Desert vegetation is displayed in a Cactus Garden, while other attractions include a Heritage Rose Garden, Australian Forest, demonstration gardens, and an Herb Garden. Queen Creek, an intermittent desert stream, and the Arboretum's irrigated gardens and protected grounds provide a haven for local wildlife. Over 300 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians have been found at the Arboretum over the years.
Adjacent to the Arboretum is the scenic Picketpost Mansion, the 1920s winter home of mining magnate and philanthropist William Boyce Thompson, who founded his namesake Arboretum in 1924. The Smith Interpretive Center on the Arboretum grounds was built of locally quarried stone in 1925 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Special events throughout the year include the Arboretum’s unique salute to a signature migratory bird species: “Bye-Bye Buzzards” day in the fall and the “Welcome Back Buzzards” day each spring. Seasonal plant sales, a live music festival, fall color celebration on Thanksgiving weekend, Australia Day, and the herb festival are among other events.
Described as a 350-acre living classroom, the Arboretum offers lizard walks, the Main Trail guided tour, landscaping classes, edible and medicinal desert plant walks, photography classes, wildflower identification, and much more.
Wildlife to Watch: More than 230 bird and 72 species of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians have been documented as either permanent and/or migratory Arboretum residents. These include Costa’s and broad-billed hummingbirds, brown-crested flycatcher, black and Say’s phoebes, cactus and canyon wrens, ruby-crowned kinglet, Gambel’s quail, gilded flicker, curve-billed thrasher, and black-throated sparrow. The extensive irrigated areas of native and exotic trees and shrubs provide food and shelter for countless winter visitors and transients, including many rarities such as rufous-backed robin and varied thrush.
Other wildlife includes the rock squirrel, Harris’ antelope squirrel, and desert cottontail. Snakes, tortoises and toads usually venture forth at dawn or dusk. Lizards such as the desert spiny lizard may be seen basking in the sun during the day. Other regularly encountered lizards include tiger whiptail, greater earless, eastern collared, common side-blotched, and ornate tree lizards. Seeking shelter during the heat of the day, many of the Arboretum's free-roaming inhabitants are not always evident during the day. Abundant but often unseen insects, spiders, and scorpions are also part of the Arboretum's natural ecosystem. Two native fish, the Gila topminnow and desert pupfish, are in Ayer Lake on the east end of the Arboretum.
Special Tips: Admission fees apply. The visitor center features interpretive information and species lists. For more information call 520-689-2723.
Other Activities: A system of nature trails, over 2 miles of combined lengths, weaves through the botanical A system of nature trails, over 2 miles of combined lengths, weaves through the botanical gardens. The most scenic vistas are along Queen Creek Canyon, with views of Magma Ridge. The Main Trail is about 1.5 miles long and passes through the Cactus Garden, past Ayer Lake, near Picketpost Mansion, along Queen Creek, and past the Herb Garden before proceeding through the Eucalyptus Forest. About half of this trail is accessible to wheelchairs, and many side loops from this trail are also accessible.
Ownership: Arizona State Parks, Boyce Thompson Arboretum Board, University of Arizona
Size: 1075 acres
Closest Town: Superior
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: