Oracle State Park weekend events salute desert seasons, birds and skies

Val Bembenek

The month of November at Oracle State Park Center for Environmental Education features a discovery program on the desert’s “five” seasons, a weekend of birding and the opening of an exhibit of award-winning astrophotography images.

Five seasons. On Sunday, November 8, Dr. Robert Elder will present “Seasons of the Sonoran Desert” in the Kannally Ranch House starting at 11:00 a.m. The illustrated program shows how the seasons relate to the life histories of familiar plants and animals. Bob, who lives in Oracle, is a volunteer docent at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. With a Ph.D. in zoology and physiology, he has more than 40 years’ professional experience in environmental science with academia, industry and consulting firms. Most recently he was Director of Environmental Compliance for Atlantic Richfield at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.

The program is free with park admission, as are all other scheduled events. Reservations are requested by calling Jennifer Rinio, ranger, at the park office at 520-896-2425. The park is open 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays; park admission is $7 per car at the main gate on Mt. Lemmon Road in Oracle.

Birding talk, walks and breakfast. Saturday and Sunday, November 21-22, Kathe Anderson will welcome birding enthusiasts. Saturday features a 3:00 p.m. class to learn identification of common birds of the desert/urban interface, followed by a 90-minute pre-sunset walk. On Sunday, a two-hour guided walk at 7:45 a.m. is followed by a breakfast on the patio provided by Friends of Oracle State Park. Reservations are required to attend any individual events or all events.

Astrophotography on display. On Saturday, November 7, an exhibit of seven out-of-this-world astronomical images by Adam Block from the University of Arizona Mt. Lemmon Sky Center will open. They will remain on display throughout the month and into December for public viewing when the park is open. Adam, recipient of the 2012 Hubble Award, is recognized around the world as a leading astrophotographer. His images are published in magazines, books, posters and widely on the internet.

On Sunday, December 20, he will offer a presentation and film in the Ranch House. Details to be announced in December.

Full Oracle State Park event information is always posted on the state parks website:

Other November highlights.

Saturday, November 14: Guided hike along seven miles of park trails with Gaston Meloche starting at 8:15 a.m. Call Gaston for reservations at 638-5404.

Sunday, November 15: Bighorn Basics program with Richard Boyer begins 12:30 p.m.

Saturday, November 21: Mineralogy walk with Wolfgang Mueller begins 11:00 a.m.

Every weekend: Kannally Ranch House is open for self-guided tour. The multi-level Mediterranean-Revival style house built in 1929 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. An exhibit of impressionistic-style cowboy paintings by self-taught artist Lee Kannally is displayed in the living room and dining room.

The park, at a comfortable elevation of 4,500 feet, has 15 miles of hiking trails, including a section of the National Scenic Arizona Trail, and numerous day-use picnic areas as well as vista patios at the Ranch House.

For information about all 28 Arizona State Parks, the trails and off-highway vehicle programs and the State Historic Preservation office, call 800-285-3703. Campsite reservations can be made online at or by calling the reservation call center at 520-586-2283. Follow AZStateParks on Twitter and Facebook.