New programs, popular events at Oracle State Park this fall

Val Bembenek

Summer’s over and a full schedule of events, programs and hikes is on the calendar at Oracle State Park Center for Environmental Education.

An astro-photography program for beginners on October 17 and a discussion of the Five Seasons of the Sonoran Desert in early November are brand new, while old favorites — a birding weekend October 24 through 25 and an October 18 workshop for making blank stab-bound journals — return.

Dr. Robert Elder, who has more than 40 years professional experience in environmental science and is a volunteer docent at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, will speak at 11:00 a.m. on November 8. He’ll relate the life histories of common plants and animals to our desert seasons.

Mike Weaser, local amateur astronomer, will show how almost any camera can take dark-sky photos of the moon and planets. After sunset, the group will use park telescopes.

The popular birding weekend with Kathe Anderson includes a Saturday program on common birds followed by a guided pre-sunset walk. On Sunday, an early two hour walk will be followed by breakfast prepared by Friends of Oracle State Park.

The hand-stitched bookmaking technique will be taught by local paper artisan, Val Bembenek, and participants will create three journals for notes, sketching or to give as gifts.

Complete Oracle State Park event information and program times are always posted on the state parks website:

The park is open 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Most programs are free with park admission of $7 per car at the main gate on Mt. Lemmon Road in Oracle, but reservations are requested by calling Jennifer Rinio, ranger, at the park office at 520-896-2425.

Docent-led tours of the Kannally Ranch House, the multi-level Mediterranean-Revival style house built in 1929, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are scheduled on October 17 at 10:00 a.m. and on October 25 at 2:00 p.m. Park visitors can tour the ranch house at their leisure any time the park is open. An exhibit of impressionistic-style cowboy paintings by self-taught artist Lee Kannally remains on display. The park, at a comfortable elevation of 4,500 feet, has 15 miles of hiking trails including a section of the National Scenic Arizona Trail and numerous day-use picnic areas as well as vista patios at the ranch house.

Other Upcoming Highlights

October 24: Six-mile guided hike along the Wildlife Corridor, Arizona Trail and Manzanita Trail begins at 8:00 a.m.; reservation required.

October 31: Pinal open space and trails presentation by Nature Conservancy speaker.

November 14: Guided seven mile hike on park trails with Gaston Meloche; reservation required.

November 15: Bighorn Basics program with Richard Boye.

November 21: Mineralogy Walk with local mineralogist Wolfgang Mueller; reservation requested.

For information about all 28 Arizona State Parks, the Trails and Off-Highway Vehicle Programs and the State Historic Preservation Office, call 800-285-3703. Campsite reservations can be made online at or by calling the reservation call center at 520-586-2283. Follow AZStateParks on Twitter and Facebook.