This past weekend we had visitors from out of town. They frequent Tucson quite often. This visit we decided to show them two places they have never been, DeGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun and Agua Caliente Park. Agua Caliente was once a Hohokam village, between 1850-70’s it was an army encampment, between 1873 – 1984 it was a working ranch, fruit orchards and alfalfa fields. During this same period of time several people discussed developing it as a resort and a housing development. Fortunately the later never occurred. In 1984, local businessman Roy P. Drachman donated over $200,000 toward the purchase of Agua Caliente. The donation provided the incentive for Pima County to proceed with the acquisition. Agua Caliente Park, a Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Facility, opened on January 19th, 1985. Thirty years it has been opened to the public to enjoy.
The park has open fields, restored ranch buildings for classes, bird watching walks and paths though out the park to enjoy nature. Of course you get to enjoy beautiful Catalina Mountain views too.
Prior to the long term drought we have been experiencing, there were three ponds filled with water. A natural hot spring flows through faults between gneissic rock conglomerate sediment. Current temperature of the spring is approximately 87 degrees Fahrenheit. After our wetter than normal winter, the first lake was full and vegetation filled the pond. As you can see there are plenty of palm trees.
Many of the trees have been left in their natural state. The setting sun gave them a glowing color. Makes you think of thatched huts and hula skirts. Wonder what is living under those palm fronds?
When you see this much vegetation, it’s difficult to believe we are in the Sonoran Desert. This little island once had a wooden bridge, you could walk across it and be on your very own Gilligan’s Island. Over time the bridge deteriorated, the County blocked access to it and eventually it was taken down.
On many of our past visits, we would often see water turtles sunning themselves in this part of the pond. Despite four sets of searching eyes, not one could be found.
We took a walk towards the second pond. This used to be a dirt path. Today it’s paved for easy access. Once these mesquite trees fully leaf out, you will be walking through a canopy. Another rare site in the Sonoran Desert. As we walked this path, you could feel warmer temps and some humidity.
As we turned around to head back to the parking lot, we decided to take a shadow selfie. The tallest of these four people is 5’4″. To say we are vertically challenged would be an accurate statement. Look how big we look in this picture!
I turned around to take one last look. Agua Caliente is a true desert oasis. If you are visiting Tucson, please consider adding it to your list of destinations. If you live here and have never been, head East to 12325 East Roger Road off Soldier Trail. Maybe you haven’t visited the park in a few years. Enjoy it while we have cooler weather or take an early evening walk through the beautiful landscape. Would appreciate reading your comments. Please let me know how you discovered Agua Caliente and what’s your favorite part of the park.