Discover the birds and geology of the Southwest
with our 2018 Southern Arizona Loop
This trek explores the mountain islands and desert seas of southeastern Arizona at a time of maximal bird activity, just before the summer heat sets in. After meeting up at the Tucson airport we will stop at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for an overview of the region and an introduction to many of its distinctive animals (e.g., eight hummingbird species in the aviary).
Then, we will head on through the saguaros to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where we spend two nights and a day up close to a variety of cacti, desert birds such as Gilded Flickers and Ferruginous Pygmy-Owls, and the tortured igneous geology at the edge of the Pinacate volcanic field.
After this salient to the west, we return eastward to the birds of the luxuriant riparian woodland along Sonoita Creek at Patagonia. To the north and east loom fault block mountains (horsts) that were squeezed up along the vertical faults created as the earth’s crust stretched some 30 million years ago. We will spend four nights in these, the mountain islands.
In the Huachucas, our caravan will follow switchbacks up the side of the “reef,” a massive block of Precambrian granite hundreds of millions of years older than the granites we saw in Organ Pipe. The reward, our first pines and their unique birds, including the very rare Tufted Flycatcher. The next day, a hike down the mountain through a shady canyon full of birds with Mexican affinities, such as Mexican Jay, while hoping for an encounter with a troupe of Coatimundis.
A few hours eastward, past the open pit copper mine in Bisbee, the Chiricahuas are another mountain island, but with completely different rocks. The soaring walls of Cave Creek Canyon, the “Yosemite of the Southwest,” were cut from 2000 feet of Rhyolite tuff deposited 27 million years ago. Peregrine falcons perch on Cathedral Rock, Spotted Owls shelter in the caves, and Elegant Trogons patrol the diverse woodlands that line the creek. Fossil-rich Permian limestones that escaped the blanket of tuff can be seen east of Portal. We’ll spend a night in the canyon and another in the pines at Rustler Park, a short hop from the fantastic columns that have weathered from the tuff at Chiricahua National Monument.
Our final destination, on our westward trip back to Tucson, is Kartchner Caverns State Park. This world-class limestone cavern will give us exposure to sedimentary geology, from below, a fitting finale for a week of fantastic rocks and flocks.
Expect lots of good stories, laughter around the evening campfire and great food, too!
Is this trek right for me?
- Great for the science and adventure-minded
- Perfect for birders, hikers, and outdoor-lovers
- No previous outdoor experience required
- A overall adventurous spirit & serendipitous mindset will serve you well
What is included in the cost?
Tuition includes everything once you arrive in Tucson:
- All meals
- All transportation
- Staff, educators, field specialists
- All gear necessary for group expedition
- Special activities (rafting, mountain biking, art classes + more) and backcountry permits
Trekkers are responsible for covering travel costs to and from Tucson the first day and last day of the trek. Gulch staff will be at the Tucson Airport to greet incoming Trekkers.
For more logistical questions, visit our FAQ page, or give us a call: 505-248-0563.
“Mountain Islands and Desert Seas”
- Basin and Range geology
- Many bird species not viewable elsewhere in the USA
- Which birds and plants are where, and why?