Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Nature Conservancy Destination: Southern Arizona

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit several Nature Conservancy projects in southern Arizona. On any travel, it pays to check out chapter web sites to see if you can include a trip to one of our preserves in your visit.

Southern Arizona has some of the most well-known preserves in the country. Ramsey Canyon Preserve is located where the Sierra Madre of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains and the Sonoran and Chihuahan deserts come together. The mountains, which arise abruptly from the surrounding desert, creates habitat for a tremendous diversity of species.

The terrain here looks more like forest I saw in Australia than the saguaro-filled landscape near Tucson. Stunning rock formations can be seen from the hiking trails that wind through the preserve.

The preserve is best known as a destination for birders. As many as 14 species of hummingbirds can be found here, as well as tropical species like the elegant trogon. I arrived a bit too late for the hummingbird migration, but I did see plenty of beautiful lizards, the Ramsey Canyon leopard frog and a number of Coues deer: At other times of year, visitors may see javelina, coati, black bear and a tremendous variety of birds. The preserve includes several ponds, constructed to mimic wetlands that once were found in this valley, located along the stream. These ponds are part of a project to conserve Ramsey canyon leopard frog, a rare species found nowhere else on earth. These frogs can be easily seen during a visit.

The preserve includes a great interpretive facility and gift shop with books, birding supplies and Nature Conservancy clothing.

It is located about 1.5 hours from Tucson and makes a nice stop during a trip to see other popular tourist sites in the area, including Saguaro National Park, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and Tombstone.

Visit a Nature Conservancy preserve, and see firsthand how your investment is paying off.

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