Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum: Why I Want To Be A Kangaroo Rat (Mostly)
Sweat poured down from my forehead. I tried to wipe the drops away but the inside of my baseball hat was already soaked through, and my hair was shellacked to my head. I looked at the water bottle in my hand, half-empty. The rays of the sun baked me like a potato. And, we had only walked for seven minutes at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum.
- The roots of the Mesquite tree can burrow up to 98 feet (30 meters) to seek out moisture. Mesquite makes up 80% of the coyote’s diet in the growing season.
- The desert ironwood can only be found in the Sonoran desert. It grows up to 30 foot (9 meters) tall and can live for 1,500 years. It also sprouts a large pea pod, a food source for the area’s animals,
- The saguaro cactus can hold up to 42 gallons (160 liters) of water in order to survive frequent droughts.
- Spadefoot toads estivate (a form of hibernation) for eight to nine months of the year.
- Roadrunners can reach speeds of up to 25 MPH (40 km/h), because running uses up less energy than flying.
- The kangaroo rat can live its entire life without drinking a drop of water. These creatures receive all of their moisture from eating leaves and insects. Their nasal passages are designed to cool their breath so that it condenses into moisture, which is absorbed into their bodies. Consequently, its urine is released in the form of a paste. Charming!
Fifteen minutes into our walk I wished I had a nose like the kangaroo rat’s (although it can keep the paste urine). And, we were in the ‘easy’ section of the Sonoran Desert, or the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum near Tucson.
In Cat Canyon, I watched a bobcat proudly parade around with a dead squirrel in its mouth, as pleased with itself as a dog with a new squeaky toy. Secretive by nature, bobcats can be hard to see in the wild, which is why it was a treat to find two at the museum. Cat Canyon is also home to one ocelot, a species listed as endangered (although there is a small, wild population in Texas). Other highlights include an aviary, cactus garden and a riparian corridor, complete with otters and beavers.
There are several water fountains but it’s best to take your own bottle. Also, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses are a must.
What’s your favorite Arizona attraction?
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.