Our Arizona travels brought us not only to a gentle bird refuge; but the historical Fort Lowell Park in Tucson. This wildlife oasis streaming with ducks, cormorants, turtles and dragonflies was an United States Army post from 1873 till 1891.
The most prominent building at Fort Lowell was the hospital, the adobe remnants still stand under a protective structure.
Ft. Lowell lay in ruins for numerous years. The City of Tucson eventually converted the bulk of the former post into Old Fort Lowell Park, which features ball fields, tennis and racquetball courts, a large public swimming pool, and the Fort Lowell Museum dedicated to its days as an active military installation.
**This is a superb choice if you are looking for Tucson activities.
A lane lined with cottonwood trees, aptly named Cottonwood Lane, glorified the area in front of the officer’s houses.
Following World War II, the Fort Lowell area grew into a small village which the predominantly Mexican local residents called El Fuerte.
The Fort Lowell Museum is located in the reconstructed Commanding Officer’s quarters.
Stroll from the remains of the Ft Lowell Hospital towards the wildlife pond to enjoy crestedducks with the latest updos.
Catch a glimpse as a pigeon tries to remember the secret code to get passed the duck security.
Dedicated community members adopted Fort Lowell Park to keep it clean and build a protected area for birds.
During our visit we spoke with some of the impressive volunteers with “Friends of FortLowell Park” as they were planting trees and tidying up the nesting area.
A regal Neotropic Cormorant bird was standing by to make sure we didn’t decide to jump in and go swimming.
Many species of cormorants make a characteristic half-jump as they dive and under water cormorants propel themselves with their feet.
Thanks to the collaboration of The Friends of Fort Lowell Park and Tucson Parks and Recreation for giving residents and guests a place to enjoy outdooractivities and wildlife in the Sonoran Desert.
Local historians have found evidence that Fort Lowell Park sits on a site endowed with a continuous supply of underground water and has been occupied by humans since ancient times.
We make it a point to take visitors to Agua Caliente Park. This is an amazing lagoon; a get away from the prickly pear cacti and saguaros. It’s hard to tell that you’re even in Tucson. Agua Caliente presents you with an abundance of mature shade trees and lush backgrounds for picnics, weddings and even Plein-Air paintings.
Roy P. Drachman Agua Caliente Park has a natural hot spring that flows through faults between gneissic rock and has been a long-inhabited settlement.
What is gneissic rock? This type of rock has minerals arranged into layers which seem to be bands that alternate darker and lighter colors. The banding is developed under high temperature and pressure conditions.
Ok now, is Agua Caliente a park, a lake, or a wildlife habitat? Well this natural spring is a bit of everything! Pack a picnic, hang out and be sure to bring a camera.
If you enjoy bird watching then Agua Caliente Park is worth a visit. The Tucson Audubon Society is housed in the original Ranch home.
Take a look inside this historic building and enjoy the gift shop and gallery.
The eccentricity of the mountains and mature palm trees are reflected with vibrant color in the water.
Here you can picnic at a 101 acre aquatic / riparian habitat surrounded by the Sonoran Desert.
At Agua Caliente you will see a variety of wildlife including herons, Arizona turtles and a variety of ducks.
The natural spring flow fluctuates at various times during the year due to drought. While visiting Agua Caliente you many see the lower ponds dry.
Relax on a bench and watch dozens of turtles sunning themselves. While visiting the park it feels like we arrived in some exotic place hidden in the Sonoran Desert.
The ducks, birds and turtles entertain us at our picnic table while we wait for the Tucson sunsets.
It is a wonderful reprieve from the heat and definitely not what you would expect to find in Tucson, Arizona.
Adding to its charm, professional photographers frequent Agua Caliente with clients who want a stunning background.
There is a huge mesquite tree east of the ranch house estimated to be over 250 years old!
To sustain this elderly mesquite tree, Agua Caliente’s administration use brick columns and steel poles to support the enormous branches.
Agua Caliente Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
This extreme east Tucson park is truly an oasis in the desert and is highly recommended for you, your family and friends.
Drive northeast of the Tucson city limits and you will discover a natural spring surrounded by wildlife, palm trees and native vegetation. Agua Caliente Park transports a visitor from the Sonoran Desert to a 101-acre hidden oasis.
Agua Caliente, (hot water) is named for the warm water spring that supports several ponds within the park.
Agua Caliente Park has an open lawn edged by tall Date Palms, and a stream bank lined with mature California Fan Palms close to 100 years old.
Human habitation at Agua Caliente has been found to date back about 5,500 years. I’d like to share a simple history and insights into the rich farming and ranching of the unique desert oasis called Agua Caliente.
From A.D. 600 to 1450, the prehistoric Hohokam constructed one of the largest and most advanced irrigation networks ever created using pre-industrial technology.
This technology would eventually give form to the unique prehistoric culture of southern Arizona known as the Hohokam.
Around 1150 AD, a Hohokam village, referred to as the Whiptail Site, was established that extended into a portion of Agua Caliente in the Tucson basin.
Deserving of our respect, the incredible Hohokam were able to sustain life in the area of Agua Caliente for nearly 1,500 years.
The hot spring at the Whiptail Site at Agua Caliente Park has attracted native settlers since about 2500 B.C. These facts are what has helped put the Tucson Basin on the map as one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in North America.
About 1853-1870s, Agua Caliente Spring was used as an army encampment following the Gadsden Purchase. What is the Gadsden Purchase?
**James Gadsden was the U.S. Minister to Mexico who was sent to renegotiate a border with Mexico that provided a route for a southern railroad in exchange for U.S. financial obligations.
In 1873, Peter Bain filed the first formal claim to 160 acres surrounding Agua Caliente Spring. He began a dairy cattle operation by bringing cows north from Sonora. Bain built a house, several outbuildings and corrals at Agua Caliente.
In 1875, James P. Fuller purchased “Agua Caliente Rancho” and established an orchard and cattle ranch on the property.
In 1881, Fuller’s Hot Springs Resort was advertised as a medicinal and recreational destination. He promoted the curative properties of the natural warm springs.
1880s-1920s. Various owners operated Agua Caliente as a cattle ranch and resort. The ranch bunkhouse, which dates back to the 1920s, was used by the ranch hands.
The ranch house, caretaker cottage, now known as Rose Cottage, and the bunk house have been restored. The ranch house depicts the home as it may have appeared in the 1920s.
In 1935, Gibson DeKalb Hazard purchased Agua Caliente and operated it as a working ranch while also growing fruit and alfalfa.
In 1951, the Filiatrault family took over the ownership of Agua Caliente consisting of three large lakes. They also grew alfalfa for their cattle and horses and maintained the fruit orchard Fuller established in 1875.
In 1984, local businessman Roy P. Drachman donated over $200,000 toward the purchase of Agua Caliente. The donation provided the incentive for Pima County to acquire the property and establish Agua Caliente Park.
Agua Caliente Park, a Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Facility, opened on January 19th, 1985.
March 1, 1997. Agua Caliente’s expansion areas were opened for public use. The park improvements included a paved entry drive and parking lot, accessible trails, interpretive signs explaining the waterfowl and history of this unique park, and a new maintenance building.
April 17, 2004. The grand opening of the newly restored Ranch House and Rose Cottage.
The ranch house was built around 1873 and is currently a visitor center and an art gallery. Call 520-749-3718 for more information.
July 9, 2009. Agua Caliente Ranch Historic Landscape was entered into the National Register of Historic Places.