Desert Plants & Wildlife

It might not seem like there is much living in the desert, but many species of plants and animals not only live here, but thrive in the Sonoran Desert’s arid environment. Don’t let the vast openness fool you into thinking it’s a dead zone or there’s “nothing out there.” Explore what can--and does--live life to the fullest in one of the hottest, driest places on earth.

Take a guess how many kinds of cacti grow in Yuma’s part of the Sonoran Desert. Would you have known it is more than 300 species of cacti and succulents live and even thrive in the arid desert environment? And animals…dozens of species of birds, several medium-sized mammals like bighorn sheep, pronghorns and mountain lions, many smaller mammals like foxes and coyotes, several species of hares, tortoises, snakes, lizards and bats, and plenty of little fellas like the kangaroo rat all make the desert their home. 

If getting “out there” is not your thing, you can learn more about the desert flora at two gardens in Yuma that are open to the public. The Robert J. Moody Demonstration Garden is open during daylight hours all year and serves as a living guide to plants that thrive in this area. Both visitors and local homeowners can learn about working with desert plants and xeriscaping with little water. Native Sonoran Desert plants are featured at the Yuma Conservation Garden, open weekends from November to April.  Other locations where plants are marked with permanent signage include the Colorado River State Historic Park and the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park

Some of the wildlife can be seen within the city in areas like the East and West Wetlands, but to “track bigger game” to view, you can head out to the three wildlife refuges in the Yuma area—Cibola, Imperial and Kofa. These three national wildlife refuges make up more than 1,000 miles of desert, desert upland, riparian, grassland and forests in which this wide diversity of animal life thrives. Hiking, biking or ATV’ing into the wilderness are ways to get off the main road.

Parks And Gardens

With many ways to rest, contemplate nature, learn, recreate or exercise, Yuma’s parks and gardens are each a mini oasis in their own right. As green and flowering as Yuma is, it might be easy to forget it’s situated in the Sonoran Desert. It’s only because of the ample water...

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