Thursday, May 11, 2017

Living Desert Zoo and Gardens (New Mexico) One Thumb's Up

Photo stolen from the Detroit Zoo website

When I was a kid the annual trip with all the cousins to the Detroit Zoo was a highlight of the summer. The 'Bear Fountain' was an iconic childhood landmark and no trip to the zoo was complete without a ride on the train that circled the grounds. (Technically the fountain is the Horas H. Rackham Memorial Fountain. Horas was paid $25 to draw up the incorporation papers for the Ford Motor company and had the foresight to scrimp and save and borrow $5000 to buy 50 of the original 890 share IPO which made him chairman of the board and allowed he and his wife to become Detroit's leading philanthropists)

Those memories still bring up a warm-fuzzy, but in the years since we all  have gained a better understanding of natural habitats and how animals interact with them and with each other if left on their own, and I'm not that big on zoos anymore.

But then I heard that at the zoo part of  Living Desert Zoo and Gardens New Mexico State Park (Not affiliated with the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in California) only houses native species consisting rescues that will be rehabbed and released if possible or if not possible, such as the one-winged Golden Eagle, kept as educational displays, or animals involved in research and breeding programs such as the Mexican Wolves and Bolson Tortoise.

Besides I like botanical gardens; the entry cost is the standard New Mexico State Park fee of $5; and it was just down the road at the northern edge of Carlsbad.

 Some reviewers say you can see this place in an hour, but the trail through the gardens and enclosures alone is 1.3 miles long and the displays inside the visitor center are worth a good 45 minutes all by themselves.

The gift shop tucked over to the side?? Well that depends on your tolerance of tourist-type gift shops.

On par with the educational displays for me was the 'gardens' part of the place.

The outside trail is easy for just about any degree of mobility.

The gardens are split up into habitat zones

and there's an abundance of plaques

describing the various plants, how they fit into the habitat, and how they have been and sometimes still are used by us.

There's a new reptile house sure to capture the squealing adoration of the kids as well as a nocturnal house with even more desert-living information for those willing to take the time to check it out.

but if you or the kids are prone to nightmares - well - be forewarned!

There are mountain lions in the Capital Reef area but the two here at the zoo come from California where they were picked up as cubs by well-meaning but ill-informed people and now are too big to live 'at home' but too imprinted on humans to release.

As I understand it, the same sad story goes for the trio of Bobcats housed in the adjacent enclosure. (Petting not recommended!)

Staying true to the botanical side of things but stepping away from natives is the greenhouse

which during the summer should really be visited early in the day. (Not a problem during the first days of April though.)

Inside there are a whole new host of plants to see and marvel at, including this nearly 4 foot tall barrel cactus

and this weird Brazilian Old Man,  (Hey!  I've got ear-hair that looks like that!!)

as well as some impressive flowering plants.

On the two thumbs up/down scale of approval/disapproval this place deserves one thumbs up. Not worth making a special trip but if you are in the area certainly worth a stop.


  1. I got to see this the first year it was open and it was good then. Since the years have flown by and lots of new stuff added it must be really a nice place now. Thanks for the trip through it.

    1. Some of the enclosures are showing their age and updates are under way, but yes, overall the place is not bad for a state run and funded facility.