Programs exploring the natural world and sky are featured during September at Oracle State Park Center for Environmental Education. The park is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Except as noted, programs are free with park admission of $7 per car at the main gate on Mt. Lemmon Rd. in Oracle. Call the park office at 520-896-2425 for reservations.
Oracle State Park is a 4,000-acre wildlife refuge with over 15 miles of maintained trails for use by hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. It is located in the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains, northeast of Tucson.
Saturday, Sept. 3: Prickly Pear Walk and Talk continues Ethnobotany Programs. Join Sonoran herbalist, John Slattery 8 to 10:30 a.m. With blender and straining equipment, John will demonstrate a relatively quick and simple method to process prickly pear fruits at home. Enjoy a freshly made juice drink at the end. Botanical products and books for sale on the ranch house patio. Space is limited; reservation is required. Workshop fee is $3 with park entry. The event is sponsored by Friends of Oracle State Park.
Saturday, Sept. 10: Star Party and Guest Speaker. From 5:30 to 7 p.m., Dr. Thomas A. Fleming will give a presentation on the history of the Steward Observatory. The Steward Observatory is the research arm of the Department of Astronomy at the University of Arizona in Tucson. This year marks its centennial celebration. In 1916, Mrs. Lavinia Steward of Oracle, AZ, was a wealthy widow with an interest in astronomy. She memorialized her husband’s name with a generous donation to the university to be used to purchase “a telescope of huge size…” Following the talk, from 7 to 9 p.m., telescopes by Tucson Amateur Astronomer’s Association will be set up for public night time sky viewing at the ranch house. A reservation is suggested for the 5:30 p.m. presentation.
Sunday, Sept. 18: Pollinators Plus: Phenology and Making Connections, Join Hilary Cox for a presentation at the ranch house at 5 p.m. for an hour, followed by a short guided trail walk ending about 7:15 p.m. Park gates will close to the public late, by 8 p.m. Pollinators positively affect all of our lives, supporting wildlife, healthy watershed and more. Let’s appreciate the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. Reservation is suggested; free with park entry.
Saturday, Sept. 24: Plant Walk on the Trail continues Ethnobotany Programs. Sonoran herbalist, John Slattery, from 9 to 11 a.m., and discussion about what is seen. Botanical products and books for sale on the ranch house patio. Space is limited; reservation is required. Workshop fee is $3 with park entry. The event is sponsored by Friends of Oracle State Park.
Sunday, Sept. 25: Live Music Concert in the Park. Heather “Lil Mama’ Hardy, described as a soulful female electronic blues violinist, performs on the upper patio of the Kannally Ranch House from 4 to 6 p.m. Park gates will remain open after dark for star-viewing with telescopes. The concert is Free with park entrance fee. Event is supported by Friends of Oracle State Park and Oracle Dark Skies Committee.
Guided tours of the historic Kannally Ranch House are scheduled for 11 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday for 45 minutes. The multi-level Mediterranean-Revival style house, built in 1929-33 by one of the earliest cattle ranching families in Oracle, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. An exhibit of impressionistic-style cowboy paintings by self-taught artist Lee Kannally is on display in the living room and dining room.
The American Avenue trailhead parking lot is open every day to access the National Scenic Arizona Trail, and to accommodate use by night-time stargazers. The park is an International Dark Sky Park, designated in 2014 by the International Dark Sky Association.
For more information, visit AZStateParks.com/Parks/ORAC or call 520-896-2425.