Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute

Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute

While staying at Davis Mountains State Park (Adjusting to Altitude and Making Plans) outside Fort Davis, Texas, we drove the road toward Alpine, Texas and stopped at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute (CDRI). We have been to CDRI a number of times since we first came to Fort Davis in 2002. Every time we have visited CDRI, some new feature has been added to make CDRI more interesting, educational or useful. This year is not different.

Botanical Garden Entrance
Botanical Garden Entrance

We spent the bulk of our time walking through the new and improved fenced in Botanical Gardens. I suspect the fencing is to keep deer, antelope and cattle out of the gardens.

Soaptree Yucca
Soaptree Yucca

They have improved the labeling on plants. Nearly plant has a clear label with both the common and Latin names. This is helpful as I’ve seen a number of the plants before in different areas of the Chihuahuan Desert (wiki link) but didn’t know their name. There are so many plants. I’m not sure how many of the plant names will stick in my head, if any.

Desert Lantana
Desert Lantana

Another nice thing CDRI has done is to provide paper maps to visitors. The botanical garden map I received (picture below) has numbers on the trail that correspond the the numbers on placards placed along the trail like the one next to the desert lantana above.

Paper Botanical Garden Map
Paper Botanical Garden Map

Inside the Botanical Garden fenced area, towards the back, is a greenhouse dedicated to different varieties of cacti.  Each cactus is from a part of the Chihuahuan Desert that is warmer than the Fort Davis area.  The cactus are kept in the greenhouse to keep them safe from the cooler weather.

Flowering Greenhouse Cactus
Flowering Greenhouse Cactus

Although we didn’t visit the bird blind, we heard from fellow campers (birders) it had been much improved in the past year. In the picture below, one of the volunteers/workers is making adjustments to the solar cell powering a water pump at the bird blind.

Adjusting Bird Blind Solar Panel
Adjusting Bird Blind Solar Panel

The McDonald Observatory telescopes can be seen in the above picture.  McDonald Observatory Tour

Another favorite activity of mine is to watch hummingbirds. I was not disappointed. At the Nature Center, there are a few hummingbird feeders with benches and chairs close enough to watch but not so close as to bother the hummingbirds.

Nature Center Wraparound Porch
Nature Center Wraparound Porch

They are now filling the humming bird feeders with clear liquid. Apparently the dyes used to color the liquid in the past were not good for the birds.

Hummingbird at Feeder
Hummingbird at Feeder

Hummingbirds can be territorial and the following shows two humming birds. One of the hummingbirds keeps chasing off the others that stop by.

Territorial Hummingbird Dispute at Feeder
Territorial Hummingbird Dispute at Feeder

During previous visits during the 2000s, we had taken the time to walk the trails. Each trail head has an informational display and a map of that particular trail. Now the CDRI provides visitors all the trails on a single paper map (below).

Paper CDRI Trail Map
Paper CDRI Trail Map

Some of the trails are quite strenuous with rocky uneven ground, large vertical gains/losses and extreme slopes to walk across. On the other hand, hikers able to manage difficult trails will be rewarded with extraordinary sites and views. My favorite is the Modesta Springs trail. The Modesta Spring is the spring at the bottom of a narrow tiny canyon and hikers descend into the canyon from the mesa above.

While in the Nature Center, visit the gift shop.  They are well stocked with books about the history, environment, Chihuahuan Desert, water conservation and more.  I’ve bought favorite t-shirts here and a number of books including an Aeromotor Windmill manual.  Who Knew!

Hope to see you on the road ahead!

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