February Culture Pass Spotlight:
A 49-acre art, culture, and nature park, Tohono Chul is located on the north end of the City of Tucson just off I-10 and is home to over 150 species of shrubs, 300 species of cacti and succulents, and 50 species of wildflowers. It also boasts the largest collection of Night-blooming Cereus in the country. On quiet days at the park, visitors can observe wildlife such as the 38 species of native birds that have made the park their permanent residence.
The name Tohono Chul means “desert corner” in the local O’odham language and the park aims to educate visitors about the land’s native people and how they survived in the Sonoran Desert climate. One of the gardens, called Sin Agua, uses native techniques to capture storm water for their plants, like the Ak-Chin, who used this method to irrigate their crops.
A primary focus of the park is showcasing art pieces that reflect its connection with nature and native culture. It features many permanent sculptures, several of which are by Kenyan artist Kioko Mwitiki who uses reclaimed metal, such as poacher snares from his home country, as the medium for his work. His most prominent piece at Tohono Chul is the iconic Horse sculpture which stands in a circle of Mexican Fencepost cacti that mimic a corral. The park also has indoor galleries featuring rotating exhibits. The Exotic Sublime, a current exhibition, is themed after creatures that have wings or “take to the air in the Sonoran Desert,” and features works by dozens of artists.
Tohono Chul has three nature trails which range from a quarter mile to a half mile in length. They provide opportunities for hikers and birders alike to learn about the Sonoran Desert’s flora and fauna with interpretive signage along the trails. If visitors wish to learn more, they can attend a tour hosted by the park’s knowledgeable docents. For a list of current tours, as well as dates and times, visit https://tohonochul.org/gardens-2/tours/. The park is also home to the Children’s Museum Oro Valley, open Tuesday through Sunday, 9am to 1pm.
For visitors that are looking for desert blooming plants, Spring and Summer are the best times to visit the park. The Bistro at Tohono Chul is also a wonderful spot to enjoy breakfast or lunch while visiting the park and features local and seasonal dishes and drinks. Most of the grounds are accessible to individuals in wheelchairs. For those who may need to borrow a wheelchair to enjoy the park, they are available at Admissions. The park is open from 8am to 5pm daily and is closed on New Year’s Day, the 4th of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.
Culture Passes for Tohono Chul are available in all Southern Arizona program member libraries. To find a library near you that hosts the Culture Pass program, visit https://act1az.org/culture-pass.
tohonochul.org | 7366 Paseo del Norte, Tucson, AZ 85704 | 520.742.6455