Yikes! It’s the start of a new year and a new decade. It seemed weird to me when the year 2000 crept into my consciousness. It’s even harder for me to imagine we are heading into twenty years of this century. Yet, here we are racking up the birthdays and still having fun. Before we get into our travel plans for 2020, we need to finish our 2019 Fall Tour. So, on to Tucson, Arizona, Part Two.
An hour drive south on Interstate 19 from Tucson led us to Tubac Presidio Historic State Park. The park preserves the oldest Spanish Presidio site in Arizona where visitors can roam through the gardens, walk around the foundation ruins, peek inside historic buildings, and step down into the Tubac Presidio Archaeological Excavation Exhibit.
The Pima Indians (or Akimel O’odham) occupied the territory for thousands of years relying on farming, hunting, gathering, and trading to provide food and shelter to sustain their way of life. In 1752, New Spain established San Ignacio de Tubac to protect settlers from Apaches and Seris, control the Pimas, and expand west.
Then Mexico gained control in 1821 at the end of the Spanish War for Independence. The land transferred to the US under the Gadsen Purchase in 1853 and became part of the New Mexico Territory. The Confederate States of America claimed control in 1862.
Finally, on February 24, 1863, President Lincoln signed legislation officially recognizing the US Arizona Territory, and in 1912, Arizona earned statehood.
Tubac Historical Events
Juan Bautista de Anza III traveled through the region in 1776 while on an expedition to found the City of San Francisco in California. Sixty-three people from Tubac joined the party on their trek increasing the number of colonists to 240 and taking with them 1,000 head of livestock, horses, and mules.
Attacks by the Apache forced many of the remaining Tubac settlers north to Tucson, leaving the presidio deserted and in ruins.
In 1856, Charles DeBrille Poston arrived from Texas with 300 miners and set up his Sonora Mining & Exploring Company headquarters at the presidio. The company abandoned the site during the Civil War and the Union Army moved in.
The park exists today due to the generous donation of the first parcels by Frank and Olga Griffin on December 21, 1957. The donated land included the foundation of the Spanish Presidio. William Morrow also donated property and encouraged other residents to donate adjacent properties to the Park’s Board. Additional property donations allowed for a new visitor center and museum. Three of the properties are of historic significance: the 1885 Old School, the 1914 Otero School, and the 1890 Rojas House.
Billed as Arizona’s first state park on the park’s website, the Tubac Presidio Historic State Park was dedicated and opened on September 28, 1958. Since the “great recession” of 2007 to 2009, the Friends of the Tubac Presidio and Museum has operated the park and visitor center with volunteers.
A walking path took us through cactus, fruit trees, vegetables, and one of the oldest schools in Arizona. Inside the school are period classroom desks and educational displays.
Don’t miss the archaeology excavation exhibit where the layers of time are shown along with a small display of artifacts found during the excavation.
Unfortunately, none of the original building remains above ground, however, there are a few other adobe ruins, which date after presidio’s establishment.
We missed out on seeing the museum because it was closed due to repairs, so maybe we’ll make it back to the presidio in the future.
The state park is not the only attraction in Tubac. There are plenty of galleries, arts and crafts, and gift shops to browse through along with restaurants for food and beverages. We stopped in at Soto’s Outpost to curb our craving for Mexican food and were not disappointed.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Museum is somewhat of a misnomer since 85% of the displays are outdoors and cover ninety-eight acres. With a botanical garden, zoo exhibits, art gallery and institute, natural history museum, and aquarium, visitors will find plenty to pique their interest.
William H. Carr, with support from his friend and the museum’s initial benefactor, Arthur Pack, founded the museum in 1952. Docents contribute more than 75,000 hours annually to the museum.
Two miles of walking paths provide opportunities to view the types of animals and plants that inhabit the Sonoran Desert, a mineral collection, conservation and research programs, and an art institute. As if that amount of diversity is not enough to track, the ASDM Press has also produced over 40 books and guides on the natural and cultural history of the Sonoran desert region.
From the desert grasslands to the mountain woodlands, the museum highlights the ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert region with 1,200 different types of plants and 56,000 individual specimens. Visitors can walk through Cat Canyon and observe bobcats, a porcupine, grey fox, and an ocelot in their natural settings. Or, head to the Riparian Corridor for a glimpse at a river otter, beavers, bighorn sheep, and coatis. The Reptile, Amphibian & Invertebrate Hall is a great place to escape the outdoor heat.
Our favorites were the Raptor Free Flight and the Hummingbird Aviary. Although the weather was warm, we stood corralled between metal barriers among other spectators and waited for the raptors to appear.
An announcer explained about the birds while they flew over the crowd between their handlers who crouched close to the ground or stood with outstretched arm gloved hands. Cameras and phones worked double-time to capture the birds in flights.
The Hummingbird Aviary was a similar experience. At first we didn’t see the small birds, then little by little they appeared, flitting from tree to bush and back to tree. Standing in place gave us the best advantage to capture the little buggers in a photo.
Two restaurants—Ocotillo Café for fine dining and Ironwood Terrace for a casual food-court setting—are on site. Additional snack shops and refillable water stations are also available.
As we wrap up this Tucson visit, we see why visitors call Tucson their home during the winter months. I’m sure we’ll find an occasion to stop there again when wandering around the Southwest.
Next stop: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Wishing everyone safe travels in 2020 and beyond.
Jon & Linda Todd