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News Family Weekend Special
Get your feet wet at Sabino Canyon

WILL SEBERGER/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Don't let this summer's wildfires discourage you from visiting Sabino Canyon- the park remains open, and offers fantastic views of Tucson's surrounding mountain ranges.
By Sarah Wadsworth
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 10, 2003

A sanctuary from the heat of Tucson, Sabino Canyon is an anomaly of the desert - its cool climate, flowing creek and abundant wildlife make the canyon a treasure to Tucsonans and tourists alike.

Families will have the opportunity to explore this canyon at three different times during UA Family Weekend.

"You get to see different parts of Tucson," said Raymond Baca, director of Family Weekend. "It's a different kind of scenery; it's one of the most beautiful places in Tucson to see."

Sabino Canyon has more than one million visitors each year, according to material from a UA library.

On the Family Weekend tours, departing both Saturday and Sunday mornings, tourists can embark on a 45-minute narrated excursion in or through the canyon.

The UA will provide a snack and beverage for the two Saturday morning tours, both leaving for the canyon on a chartered bus at 8 a.m. from Old Main.

For Sunday tourists, the UA will provide lunches and beverages, and will leave from Old Main at 9 a.m.

Once at the canyon, visitors ride canyon shuttles and get additional time after the tours to explore on their own, Baca said.

The shuttles drive on a paved road that travels 3.8 miles north into the canyon.

The road crosses a total of nine stone bridges over Sabino Creek, which, after heavy rainfall, can sometimes overflow the bridges and give tourists the opportunity to get their feet wet.

Beginning at an altitude of 2,800 feet, the road winds to an altitude of 3,300 feet through the canyon.

It's one of the most beautiful places in Tucson to see.

- Raymond Baca
Family Weekend director


The route gives visitors "views of the creek, the stream-fed vegetation, stately saguaros on the canyon walls and towering magnificent rock formations," according to material from a UA library.

The shuttles make a variety of stops through the canyon, giving tourists the opportunity to get off, explore on their own and catch a different shuttle back to the visitor's center.

"Dress comfortably for sure," said Abbey Harmon, general manager of the Sabino Canyon shuttle service. "If you're going to get off, have drinking water and sunscreen."

On the weekend, the shuttles run every 30 minutes between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

"They see the most scenic part of the canyon in the shuttle," Harmon said. "You're in the most scenic part of the canyon, and the driver is telling a little bit about the flora and fauna and so on. So you get a full experience."

Located in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountain range on the northeastern edge of the Sonoran Desert, the canyon is approximately 12 miles from the UA campus.

The canyon is a part of "an isolated mountain chain rising from the desert floor" and is hailed as one of southern Arizona's "sky islands," according to material from a UA library.

"It's educational as well as beautiful," Harmon said. "There are lush trees and grasses that contrast with the deep canyon walls on either side."

An abundance of animals also frequents the canyon.

They can sometimes be difficult to spot since some are nocturnal and avoid the heat of the day and others have colorings that help them blend into their environment.

"Visitors see a lot of deer," Harmon said. "They are the biggest thing that we see. Coyotes and javelinas are more nocturnal, but there are snakes and so on, bobcats."

"There are over 200 different species of birds in the canyon," Harmon said. "The water and lush trees; there is lots of room for nests."

"Because of the creek that flows through the canyon most of the year, there is a lot of wildlife that people see more often than on any other trail," Harmon said.

The creek is fed by melted snow and rain runoff from Tucson's Mount Lemmon.

This summer, Mount Lemmon was ravaged by forest fires. And, for a period of time after the fires, Sabino Creek was flooded with waters that were black from the ash.

It is now unlikely tourists will notice any effects from the fire, unless they were avid visitors of the canyon prior to the summer, according to Harmon.

"Those of us that have been here a while can really see a difference now because of the flooding," Harmon said. "There's a whole new canyon cutting through the wall between bridge nine and stop eight."

For more information on Sabino Canyon, call (520) 749-2861. For information on UA Family Weekend, call (520) 626-4054.

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