Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens, Fort Davis

4.6
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Hiking Trail · Garden
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Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center and Botanical Gardens (507 acres) is a nonprofit nature center with botanical gardens on the grounds of the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, the parent organization. It is located off Texas State Highway 118 about 4 miles (6.4 km) south of Fort Davis, Texas, United States. The Center is open Monday through Saturday, except major holidays. An admission fee is charged.

The Nature Center includes grasslands, oak studded hillsides, mountains of volcanic origin, canyon springs, and seasonal wetland pools in the Chihuahuan Desert.

The adobe visitors' center is located at an elevation of 5,040 feet (1,540 m), almost a mile (5,280 feet) high. The surrounding Davis Mountains region is a sky island, with temperatures falling and annual precipitation tending to increase as the elevation rises from the desert floor.

Exhibits include one about the geologic history of the Davis Mountains and how culture and history are linked to geology; another highlights the history, geology, and culture of mining in the desert region.

The Center contains almost 5 miles (8.0 km) of hiking trails, and features springs and pools, interesting geology, and mountain views. One path goes to the highest point on the Center's land and to the lowest. The local flora includes specimen trees such as some of the largest madrone trees in Texas, majestic Southwestern chokeberries, and Tracey hawthornes; seventeen types of ferns living in clefts in the canyon walls; many succulents and cacti; bird species from the turkey vulture and wild turkeys to hummingbirds overwintering and other birds migrating, with the Montezuma quail, roadrunners, and orioles providing more variety and color during the year.

The Botanical Gardens (20 acres) include some 165 species of trees, shrubs, and perennial forbs of the Chihuahuan Desert in the arboretum.

The Center has a collection of cacti and succulents from the Chihuahuan Desert. The greenhouse contains about 200 species of Chihuahuan Desert cacti. Many species are in bloom in March and April, but with so many examples, some variety is usually in bloom at any time.

A wildscape garden was installed around the visitors' center in 2004, with a trickling fountain and trees, shrubs, and flowering plants native to the Chihuahuan Desert. The aim is to provide a place where birds, small mammals, and other local wildlife can find food, water, and safety from predators to raise their young.

A pollinator garden was created in 2007 to attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, wasps, and flower flies, the desert's native pollinators. The smell of night-blooming plants in the Moon Garden draws in moths and other nocturnal pollinators. This project was funded, in part, by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, an agency of the United States Government.

In addition, the Center launched the Chihuahuan Desert Field School in 2004, an educational program targeting 4th grade classes in Brewster, Jeff Davis, and Presidio counties. The overwhelming response led to the inclusion of students from all grade levels and from regions far outside the tri-county Big Bend region. Since its inception, thousands of students have participated in the field school.

The Institute also offers a Life-Long Learning Program featuring workshops, field trips, and lectures on topics related to the natural history of the region. In 2008, the Institute was recognized by the Texas Education Agency as a Continuing Professional Education Provider for the State of Texas.

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Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center & Botanical Gardens reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
288 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • We were looking for a unique place to host our son's groom's party and the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center was perfect. Our West Texas Supper & Star Party theme was casual and that amazing night sky....  more
    We were looking for a unique place to host our son's groom's party and the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center was perfect. Our West Texas Supper & Star Party theme was casual and that amazing night sky....  more »
  • If ever there was a sleeper attraction. The center is located well outside Fort Davis, on the highway to Alpine Texas. Turn off the highway and bear right on the road to the center office...about.....  more
    If ever there was a sleeper attraction. The center is located well outside Fort Davis, on the highway to Alpine Texas. Turn off the highway and bear right on the road to the center office...about.....  more »
Google
  • We can’t say enough positive about what a wonderful place this is! Part arboretum, botanical garden, mining museum and more. The area is clearly well-maintained with excellent signage, labeling the trees and plants on display. We were there during the cacti blooming season and the collection was amazing. Hundreds of different types were in the greenhouse, with others on the grounds. They appear to be developing the area further with new plantings and the upcoming addition of a display of grasses. We did not have time, but they have additional trails on the property. Dogs on leash are allowed, except in the greenhouse, beside which is a “dog hitching post!” Highly recommend a visit!
  • Who knew there were such a diversity of plant life in the desert in West Texas. I would encourage anyone with older children to go on this adventure. The trails are well-kept. The signage is easy to read. And there’s plenty to learn about the power of botany. Strong plant life is an important part of any ecosystem. The desert is an important place too. These folks run a really good operation. I left feeling invigorated and rested. The whole garden is relaxing and it is nice to have a good long walk after being in the car for so long.

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