Thanks to a small budget windfall, Oracle State Park will be open Saturdays and Sundays for a three-month period beginning February 2, 2013.
Closed in October 2009 due to state budget cuts, the park was reopened last year Saturdays only. That opening as well as another from September to November were made possible by fundraising by the Friends of Oracle State Park.
The park of 4,000 acres is located in the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains. It’s known for its oak grassland landscapes. There are 15 miles of hiking trails including 7 miles of the Arizona Trail. All are well marked.
Bird watchers will find themselves in good company with many species to see including red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, prairie falcons, black-throated sparrows, Gambel’s quail, cactus wrens, pyrrhuloxia, northern mockingbirds, northern flickers, common poorwills, northern cardinals and great horned owls.
The crown jewel though is the historic Kannally Ranch House. The Mediterranean style home is on the National Register of Historic Places. That will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from Feb. 2 through April 28 with guided tours lasting 45 minutes. The tour times are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Historically, the area could have been used by Clovis Man 11,000 years ago. It is believed that the Hohokam were in the vicinity hunting and gathering 600-800 years ago. One need only stand or sit quietly near the ranch for a few moments to get a sense of the expansiveness and beauty of the area.
In 1902, Neil Kannally arrived from Chicago, Illinois. He homesteaded the land and developed a cattle ranch. In 1976, the last surviving member of the family donated the land to Defenders of Wildlife. The DOW offered the land to the state of Arizona to create a state park.
To get to the park from Tucson, drive north on Oracle Road which becomes Arizona 77 and follow Arizona 77 past Oracle Junction to the town of Oracle. Follow American Avenue to a turnoff for Mount Lemmon and the park.
Admission is $7 per vehicle. You self-register at the park entrance.