Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Critter Day in Madera Canyon

Madera Canyon lies just a few miles NE of our RV Park in Amado, AZ but seems like a different world all together. Madera Canyon sits in the "Sky Island" of the Santa Rita Mountains. A sky island is a group of stand-alone mountains that rise up from the desert floor creating a virtual island in a sea of desert. These islands generally contain several different habitat zones with many types of flora and fauna that are essentially "trapped" on the island. The high point of this island is Mt. Wrightson at 9,453 ft.

We took a drive through the pretty little campground in the canyon, Bog Springs. It would be a fantastic campground if we were smaller! Maneuvering our large rig into any of the smallish spots would be brutal!

We stopped in at the Santa Rita Lodge to check out their wild life viewing area. They've set up multiuple bird feeders and watering holes for the local wild life to visit. There were lots of birds and this coati.

Female Coati

We headed on up to the last parking area to do some hiking. We decided to head up the Old Baldy Trail which would give us many options for our return to the parking area, including an opportunity to summit Mt Wrightson if we felt up to it.

A gorgeous day to hike in these hills.
The highest peak is Mt Wrightson.

The trail started at 5400 ft so it wasn't long before we were hitting snowy patches on the North facing mountain side. After a while there was quite a lot of snow!

Enough snow for a snowball fight!

Lots of steep dropoffs on this trail.
Mt Wrightson in the background.

Shortly after reaching the Josephine Saddle we came across two white tail bucks. Surprisingly they didn't seem too afraid of us. We watched them for a couple of minutes, maneuvering for photos before they took off into the forest.

We continued up the Mt Wrightson trail for about half a mile when we met some hikers coming down. They said the snow was quite heavy further up making the trail somewhat dangerous. We decided we'd gone high enough for the day and turned back to return by the Super Trail.

Love how distinctly different the North and South facing mountainsides are in this photo.
The Mt Hopkins Smithsonian Observatory sits on top.

Notice the young conifer saplings in this photo. There was occasional evidence of fires
throughout our hike. I imagine fire was what sparked all the new growth up here.

We were probably about 7500 feet here and you could see beyond Madera Canyon for miles and miles.
Green Valley is in the forefront, Tucson in the distance, Santa Catalina Mtns far right.

Heading down the Super Trail we were on the sunnier side of the slope. Hans spotted a small rock outcropping (about 3' x 4' pile) that seemed to be covered in lizards! In five minutes we counted 16 lizards sunning themselves at one time! We were certain there were more hidden in the rocks.

Lower elevations brought us back into the oak and manzanita zone.
It always amazes me how many different shades of green there are!

After the hike we decided to stop once again at the Santa Rita Lodge to see what animals might be checking out the free smorgasbord.

There were at least a couple dozen turkeys hanging out in the shade.
We were told that male Coati's walk around with their tail held up, females with the tail down.

It was time to drive home but little did we know that the animal show wasn't over yet! Near the end of the park we drove past several white tail deer foraging under the trees.

We got our fill of wild life on this day...absolutely one our favorite parts of getting out in to nature. True, the wild life viewing area at Santa Rita Lodge was not a pure wild life experience, but it was fun nonetheless!

With temps rising this week we may just have to come back up to Madera Canyon one more time before we leave the area.


  1. What a great hike! This could be on our top list one day.

  2. Love your hike! Isn't it great fun to come across the snow! Still some snow and ice in areas here in Zion.

    Wildlife sure do add to the day. We saw a few mule deer yesterday. You saw quite an assortment.

  3. Great Pics I've been up there a dozen times and havent got to see that much wildlife.

  4. What a tremendous hike! Great photos of the lizards. We rode from Amado to Arivaca on Sunday, it was just gorgeous out there.

  5. Wow! That's a lot of snow, we rode from Amado to Arivaca and back on Sunday and it was in the 80's in the afternoon, amazing how much difference the elevation makes!

  6. Allison & Jim, We are heading out to Arivaca today, going to check out the Buenos Aires Nat'l Wildlife Refuge.

  7. Lisa, if you are interested is some very good Mexican food. Try Wisdom's just south of Tubac on the !-19 frontage road. If you go be sure to save room for the Desert Burritos.

  8. Lisa,
    Your coati and lizard photos are great.

    I can see we will have to add Madera Canyon to our list of places to see!

    Good blog today.