Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Intrepid Naturalists Explore the Desert

We've just discovered the Asombro Institute for Science Education near Las Cruces. I liked the more descriptive former name, the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park, but no matter what it is called it is still wonderful place to visit, especially if you are a fan of the desert and of endless views of the surrounding mountains.

Located east of the city, the 935-acre park is near the Doña Ana Mountains and overlooks the Jornada Basin, with vistas that also include the San Andres, San Agustin, and Organ Mountain ranges. In high rainfall years, the runoff water from the entire basin accumulates in the emphemeral Isaacks Lake, forming a very shallow lake that quickly evaporates.

Auntie Bucksnort and I got off to a fairly early start this morning, because we are working on getting ready for the coming desert heat of spring and summer, when we know we'll need to do our explorations either early or late in the day. The park is probably only a 20 minute drive from our house to the last turnoff, then a leisurely (but bumpy) additional six-mile drive down a dirt road.

There is a parking lot, a shaded picnic table with an amazing view, and bathrooms at the trail head. Near the parking lot is a xeriscaped memorial garden, a short "Desert Experience Mini-Trail," and the beginning of a longer (1.5 mile) Desert Discovery Trail. Everything is labeled along the way so that you can enjoy your self-guided tour of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Along the Desert Experience Trail, with the Organ Mountains just coming into view

A view of the Organ Mountains and the Jornada Basin

This was one of the quietest places I have ever experienced. Except for our own footsteps, the only other sounds we could hear were the wind through the creosote bushes and some happy little desert birds trilling in the distance.

If you go: Wear long sleeves, sunscreen, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. Take water, binoculars, and a camera. We thought that shady table by the parking lot would make a perfect place for a picnic. Hours and directions are here.

From the Institute's home page:

"Asombro" is the Spanish word for “wonder,” which is exactly what Asombro Institute programs bring to the thousands of children and adults who participate each year. The Asombro Institute for Science Education (formerly the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to increasing scientific literacy by fostering an understanding of the Chihuahuan Desert.

To achieve this mission, we currently serve more than 14,000 K-12 students and 2,500 adults in New Mexico and West Texas with inquiry-based science education programs each year. Programs take place in classrooms, schoolyards, and at the 935-acre Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park site located north of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Great information with some good tips to make the experience more pleasurable. Many thanks!