Here at the Inns at El Rancho Merlita, we love all things Sonoran Desert…even the heat! It is all part of the unique warp and weft that make the Sonoran Desert a most fascinating bioregion in all the world.
As you can see in the above map, the Sonoran Desert is the region colored in the 1960’s mustard yellow theme. It covers parts of Arizona and California, and strides effortlessly into Mexico as if the border were just an figment of our human imagi-nation. When I say desert, most people conjure images of sand dunes and starkness in their minds. Thankfully for us, the Sonoran desert shrugs off all stereotypes in its diversity and relative lushness, with over 2,000 species of plants calling this place home including the giant Saguaro cacti. Believe it or not, within the Sonoran Desert one can find plant and animal communities representing all of the world’s biomes: tundra (at the top of the San Fancisco Peaks), coniferous forest, temperate deciduous forest, grassland, chaparral, desert (of course ;)), thornscrub, and tropical forest (in Southern Sonora and Baja California Sur, Mx).
If you were surprised by the variety of ecosystems found within the bounds of the Sonoran Desert, you may also be surprised that although rain may be the last thing we think of with deserts, its amount and seasonality are defining features of deserts. The Sonoran Desert is defined by two beautiful rainy seasons: the winter and summer rains. The winter rains, approximately from December-March, are widespread and gentle. They come to us from frontal storms originating in the North Pacific Ocean.
The summer rains, approximately from July to mid-September, bring daily, localized yet fiercely intense thunderstorms we call “Monsoons” which arise from influxes of wet tropical air from the south. The summer rain season ends a seasonal period of drought and high heat. It’s arrival is so important to the indigenous people of this land, this time of “Big Rains” marks the beginning of the new year.
In the Sonoran desert, we do not have the 4 season temperate cycle which we are all so familiar with from school as the simple Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. The Sonoran desert has 5 seasons if you know what to watch for. You already know two of the seasons, just by watching the rain patterns. The full order, beginning with the beginning as marked by those indigenous to this land: Summer Monsoon Rainy Season (early July to mid-September), Fall (October & November), Winter – including the Winter Rains (December to February), Spring (early February- April), Dry Summer – Foresummer Drought (May & June).
Right now we are finally in the Dry Summer season. We enjoyed a long and colorful spring this year! No complaints about that. This Dry Summer Season is our extreme season. Most of the rest of the year is quite mild. In this time we usually experience high temperatures, very low humidity, and no rain. Yet, in this dry summer heat there come many gifts. The mighty Saguaro flower and fruit along with the Palo Verdes, and Desert Ironwood trees. In the wee morning hours and the evenings, you will find all the creatures, including humans coming out to enjoy in the harvest. During the scorching days, you’ll find most everyone resting in the shade.
It is worth it to come here during this Dry Summer Season for lots of reasons. Number one, saguaro fruit!!! Some claim it’s the best fruit in the world! Number two, everything is cheaper! You can get great deals all over town for braving the heat. Number 3, you do not need a sauna, because you can just walk outside. Just kidding! In all seriousness, let’s get back to number 2. Read our “Why We Love Summer in Tucson” blog for more great Summer Tourist tips. Also, come find great deals for the Inns at Rancho Merlita as a home base from which to explore the myriad of treasures the Sonoran Desert has to offer. We would love to be your Sonoran Desert ambassadors, because we are truly and deeply all about the Sonoran Desert.
The ERM Family
P.S. If you want more information on the Sonoran Desert, visit the Sonoran Desert Museum website.