While recently attending a Women Writing the West conference at Loews Ventana Canyon Resort near Tucson, AZ, a friend and I took a little side trip to Sabino Canyon for a narrated 3.7-mile tram ride. As we rode in the open-air tram, our driver pointed out the various sites of interest including views of rocky outcroppings, craggy trees, and tough, hardy plants including a variety of cacti: cholla, prickly pear, ocotillo and the great saguaro. We learned that the saguaro can grow to be more than 40 feet tall and that many of the specimens we saw could possibly be 200 years old.
Nine stops along the way allow riders to get out and hike a variety of trails, or have a picnic, then catch a later tram, or riders may stay aboard for the entire trip. We happen to take the last tram of the day, so we stayed aboard for the entire journey. The tram turns around at Stop 9 and heads back down to the Visitors Center.
On our tour, I was surprised to see pools of water as late in the year as October. In spring and summer visitors can even see waterfalls. The Sabino Canyon is a natural desert oasis located in the Coronado National Forest. Sabino Creek gives life to the riparian and desert flora within the canyon. We saw a variety of trees including the Arizona state tree, the palo verde, plus willow, sycamore and ash.
Although I scoured the landscape as we slowly drove by, I didn’t see any wildlife, but the area supports abundant birds, mammals and reptiles. Our driver said that he has seen mountain lion on numerous occasions. Bobcat and coyote have been spotted, along with quails, roadrunners, lizards, and rattlesnakes.
In 1905, the Forest Service began overseeing Sabino Canyon. During the Great Depression, the bridges over Sabino Creek and the Sabino Dam were constructed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corporation (CCC).
The Sabino Canyon Tour was a highlight of my stay in Tucson. Tours are available seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information call (520) 749-2327, or visit sabinocanyon.org