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Sonoran Desert Naturalist Field Camp

March 3 @ 8:00 am - March 6 @ 5:00 pm


Sonoran Desert Naturalist Field Camp

At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

March 3-6, 2024

Spring is beginning in the desert. Hummingbirds sparkle in their search for nectar and mates. Thrashers sing and gather sticks for nests. Brittlebrush blooms along the roadsides. Secret ephemeral flowers emerge from the ground. The sunsets linger later into the night. The cactus are calling…

Pack your bags and join Professor David Gilligan in the heart of the Sonoran Desert for quality time in cactus country with fellow naturalists. We will spend our mornings birding, our afternoons botanizing, and our evenings telling stories by starlight. Each day will include structured sessions on desert ecology, hikes to field sites, and ample time for break-out sessions focused on plant and bird identification and the practice of natural history. We will explore the Ajo Mountain Drive, Bull Pasture, and Senita Basin, as well as the Twin Peaks area.

Hiking will include both moderate and intermediate options. We will camp in the park’s Twin Peaks group campground, which has flush toilets and solar showers. Camping is primarily tent camping with a shared ramada and picnic tables for our group. There are three parking spots available for people with camper-vehicles. However, we highly encourage you to tent camp to further immerse yourself in the natural surroundings. Options are available for either driving your own vehicle to Organ Pipe or traveling from NHI by group van.

The field camp is a meet-up concept rather than a guided trip. You can expect professionally facilitated natural history programming throughout each day and a casual, relaxed, communal environment in the evenings at camp. All parts of the program are designed for maximum participation: our goal by day is to practice natural history together, and by evening to tell stories about it. Daily natural history sessions are well-suited to all naturalist ability levels, from beginner to advanced. You will be provided with a thorough packing list, including ideas for food and meals for the duration of the trip. You will need your own tent, sleeping gear, and cooking equipment.


March 3rd:

  • 12-1pm Afternoon arrival and welcome circle; set up camp
  • 3-5pm: Twin Peaks area natural history sessions: desert plants
  • 5-7pm Unstructured and dinner time
  • 7-9pm Community time: Sonoran Desert stories

March 4th:

  • 8:30-10:30 Natural history sessions: birding
  • 10:30-12 Unstructured and lunch time
  • 12-5pm: Senita Basin drive and natural history sessions
  • 5-7pm Unstructured and dinner time
  • 7-9pm Community time: Sonoran Desert skies

March 5th:

  • 8:30-10:00 Natural history sessions: birding
  • 10:30-5pm: Ajo Mountain drive, hike, and natural history sessions
  • 5-7pm Unstructured and dinner time
  • 7-9pm Community time

March 6th:

  • 8:30-10:00 Optional natural history sessions/unstructured
  • 10:30 Closing circle with group highlights
  • 12pm Departure

WHERE: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

WHEN: March 3-6 (3 nights, 4 days)

GROUP SIZE: 12 participants

AGES: Adults and youth 16 or older

COST: $625 per person. Van transportation additional $50

David Gilligan is a professional naturalist, explorer, professor, and writer. He has developed and taught natural history field programs for Prescott College, The Sierra Institute, and Sterling College, and is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Secret Sierra, In the Years of the Mountains, Nature, Culture, Consciousness and “The High Country of the Mind”. His academic specialties include vegetation ecology, botany and geology in mountain and desert environments, and nature philosophy. He has trained hundreds of people in expeditionary backpacking, mountaineering, canoeing, and sea kayaking skills necessary for natural history exploration of wild places. David has lived and worked in Arizona, California, and Northern New England, and traveled to mountain environments all over the world.


March 3 @ 8:00 am
March 6 @ 5:00 pm
Event Category:


Natural History Institute


Natural History Institute
126 N Marina St
Prescott, AZ 86301
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