In 1970, several trustees of the Palm Springs Desert Museum foresaw the impact that resort development would have on the local desert ecosystem. They created The Living Desert to educate the public and to promote the value of desert conservation. Since check-in at the Rancho Las Palmas resort was not until the late afternoon, Kristin thought it would be fun to drop in for a look.
The place is huge, with numerous exhibits, talks, and staff to help visitors appreciate the variety of plants and animals which call the desert their home. The Living Desert is more than just a zoo. It is active in programs to help desert animals and plants threatened with extinction. Under controlled conditions, they build up at-risk populations. They can do this because on the property is a preserve with 1,000 acres of undeveloped Sonoran desert.
The Living Desert has a variety of activities for a wide range of visitors. They even have a series of nature trails for those interested in hiking through a boulder field to the base of Eisenhower mountain. While we were not prepared for a hike, we were dressed for attending the fascinating wildlife talks, visiting the petting zoo, and strolling through the outdoor animal exhibits, aviaries, and gardens.
At the start of 2012, RainyDayMagazine began a series we called “Urban Safari.” City zoos are wonderful and educational places, but space for the animals is often limited. This is not the case at The Living Desert. With plenty of room to stretch out, the exhibits appear more natural and the animals have a LOT more space to roam.
The terrain was mostly flat and easily walkable. For an extra fee, the center does provide a guided two-hour shuttle ride. We didn’t know how long we would stay so we opted for a self-guided tour. We ended up staying for about three hours, but we could have stayed there all day! The path was laid out in a loop and took us through the twenty or so exhibits. The hornbill, oryx, leopard, camel, giraffe, and ostrich were all more than happy to pose for photos. We even saw several Bighorn sheep race across the ridge of Bighorn Mountain. Totally cool!
In January, The Living Desert acquired three young Kudus from the Safari West Wildlife Preserve in Santa Rosa, CA. Kudus are a species of antelope known for their long, twisting horns and brown and striped pelts. The markings help them to disappear in scrub environments. These “new guys” have since made themselves at home amongst the ostriches and the giraffes. We spotted one on the hill checking us out.
The Living Desert is a pretty special place. It is a wildlife preserve, nature center, and zoo rolled into one. If you are ever in the Palm Springs area, definitely make time and stop by for a visit. We are happy we did!