Day trip: Living Desert offers sampling of native desert wildlife

Compiled by Paula Cronic

The Living Desert State Park and Zoo near Carlsbad includes places for fishing and hiking, and is home to many desert animals.

Established in 1971, the park is a living museum with indoor and outdoor exhibits and trailways that display many native animal species and hundreds of plants that naturally grow in the Chihuahan desert, the largest in North America.

Animal exhibits
The park contains many animal exhibits, including snakes and lizards, humming birds, owls and ravens. The birds are housed in a walk-through aviary. The aviary is filled with trees that cover the walkway, and the birds fly above the visitors.
On the outside part of the park, visitors can see Mexican wolves, bobcats, kit foxes, mountain lions, elk, antelope and other types of animals. Javelinas, which are desert pigs, can also be found, likely sleeping in the shade.

Vegetation and grounds
While taking a tour through the outside part of the park, visitors can check out the native desert plants, which include a variety of cacti and yucca plants. Some non-native vegetation has been added to the area for more scenery. Along the trails are such trees as pinion and juniper.

Those looking for more may visit around the inside of the large greenhouse, located at the end of the tour.

Some of the smaller plants from the area are available for purchase.

Hours of operation
Summer hours — 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the last entrance beginning at 6:30 p.m., seven days a week. There is plenty of parking available. No camping is allowed. Admission is free and the tour is $3.

How to get there
From Portales take U.S. 70 south toward Roswell. Merge onto U.S. 285 south via Exit A toward Roswell’s business district. Take a slight left turn onto U.S. 285 south/southeast from Main Street and continue to follow U.S. 285 south for 76 miles. Then turn right onto Skyline Road, which will become Miehls Drive. Contact: 887-5516.