(Chuck) The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum features a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place. We spent four hours here and there and it was not enough time. The Museum grounds include almost two miles of paths on 21 acres. The outdoor animal exhibits were all presented in a natural setting. Nearly all animals that exist in the Sonora Desert are featured here. The areas around the animal exhibits were all landscaped in natural desert plants. It seemed that nearly every plant was identified by name.
Raptor Free Flight is an outdoor exhibit of free flight birds that have been trained to circle overhead and fly in the very near vicinity of the crowd to food and perching stations. During this 30 minute presentation an excellent live narrative is given to explain the life of each of the various birds in the demonstration. We watched Chihuahuan Ravens, Barn Owls, Great Horned Owls, Ferruginous Hawks, Gray Hawks, and Prairie Falcons. It was a unique experience to view the birds as they flew by and interacted with their handlers at a close distance.
Running Wild is presented at the indoor Warden Oasis Theater. The animals enter the stage on a raised runway and are within a few feet of the children in the front row. The show features various animals such as Ringtail, Pelican, Gambel’s Quail, Hooded Skunk and others. Each animal is presented by a live naturalist who describes the food, environment and how these animals interact with the desert. The pelican may seem out of place in the desert at first, however the Sonoran Desert Region extends all the way south to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
(Jan) On a hot dusty day in 1692 Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit Priest, entered the Tohono O’odham village of Wa:k in the upper reaches of what was then New Spain. Fr. Kino preached and ministered to the Indians there for many years before returning to Spain. In 1756 the original mission church was built 3 miles away from the present San Xavier by Jesuit priests but was destroyed by the Apaches. The Jesuit priests were ordered to leave the area in 1767 by Charles II of Spain and replaced with priests of the Fransiscan order. The present mission church was built under the direction of the Fransicans by Tohono O’odham Indians. The exterior is a Moorish Inspired design with a classic Latin Cross floor plan. The Baroque interior is extremely colorful abounding with paintings, carvings, sculptures, frescoes and statues. Many of the statues and sculpture was done in Queretero, New Spain. The area and mission became part of Mexico in 1821 and with the Gladsen Purchase of 1854 it became part of the United States.
The Mission is an active Roman Catholic Parish served by the Franciscan priests, serving the community of the Tohono O’odham nation that built the church. We were able to attend the 8:30 Mass with the parish on Sunday morning in this beautiful mission church.
In 1989 a restoration project was commissioned to work on San Xavier. Artists and restorers from Spain and Italy committed to working for three months each year for six years. Both interior and exterior work has been extensively done and in that time Tohono O’odham artists worked with them and now continue the restoration.
We had a wonderful time seeing the church, museum and gift shop and strolling through the grounds and admiring many of the cacti in bloom. The beautiful cactus blooms above were 6 inches across! We finished out our day eating some very delicious fry bread from a local vendor.