Monday, September 5, 2011

Trip Report: Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens

The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens is located just a few miles south of Ft. Davis, Texas, on highway 118. The Nature Center covers 507 acres of rolling grassland and igneous rock outcrops. The Center features over 165 species of trees, shrubs, and perennial forbs of the Chihuahuan Desert, and approximately 200 species of Chihuahuan Desert cacti. Visitors can enjoy viewing plants and scenery on over 3 miles of trails.
                The mission of the Center is to promote public awareness, appreciation, and concern for the natural diversity of the Chihuahuan Desert region through research and education. The Chihuahuan Desert covers approximately 220,000 square miles in Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, and a small area in Arizona.
                It would take a large part of a day to see all the exhibits, plants, and trails of the Center. Donna and I were limited on time, so we only spent about 2 hours there. We first visited the Mining Exhibit, which explores the mining heritage of the Northern Chihuahuan Desert. It consists of a replica of a 19th century mine, artifacts, minerals, and ores.

Various sage plants. The purple blooms are beautiful.
                Our second stop on our Nature Center tour was the Botanical Gardens Walk. This half-mile walk features over 165 species of plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert region. Plant families are grouped, and plants are labeled. Located halfway through this walk is the Cactus and Succulent Greenhouse, which contains over 200 species of cacti and succulents for biodiversity conservation. Near the end of this walk is Cactus Hill, which consists of a solar water feature and a scenic overlook.

Donna atop Cactus Hill
                To finish our day at the Nature Center, we went for a true hike. We started on the Upper Loop Trail, and then journeyed down the Modesta Canyon Trail to see Modesta Spring. The Upper Loop Trail is an easy half-mile walk on relatively level ground. However, the Modesta Canyon Trail is nearly 2 miles of moderately challenging trail that ventures down into a narrow canyon that can test aging knees.

Looking down into Modesta Canyon
Donna near the top of Modesta Canyon enjoying the shade.

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