Route 60: Boyce Thompson Arboretum

A one hour drive east along U.S. Highway 60 from Phoenix, Arizona will take you to the Boyce Thompson Aboretum. It is located in the Sonoran Desert along Queen Creek near Picketpost Mountain, a prominent vestige of long ago volcanic action. The images I made there are part of a collection I call “Route 60”.

Founded in 1924 and opened to the public in 1929 the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is the largest and oldest garden of its kind in Arizona. Originally designed as a plant research facility and a ‘living museum’ it attracts over 75,000 visitors annually.  There are over 2600 species of arid land plants  on display. The Audubon Society  has recognized it as an  Important Bird Area due to the presence of about 270 bird species.

I’m a believer in repeat visits to the sites I love to photograph. This is true here in Kelowna with the Fascieux Creek Wetland as well as in Victoria, B.C. and other locations on Vancouver Island. And it was certainly true in Arizona. There was so much to photograph, especially at the BTA where I visited up to 4 times in the winter/spring season.  When light conditions weren’t ideal a visit on  another day might produce better results. If the images I made were not that great then another trip might build on the previous experience.

There is an entry fee to the BTA  and it does get very busy especially later in the day and on weekends. I generally was there as the gates opened in the morning  and stayed until it became too crowded. In the winter months due to the BTA’s altitude, temperatures could be below freezing especially in the shadows. But that was a small price to pay for a bit of solitude as I made my images. 

I especially loved the creative possiblities in the cactus garden and in the Australian exhibit but the image possibilities in the South American exhibit and Aloe garden interested me as well. The Chihuahuan, Curandero and High Trails provided an interesting ecological and geographic perspective for the BTA’s plant collections.

If or when we are able to make a return trip to Arizona the Boyce Thompson Arboretum will again be high on my list of photographic destinations.

The collection of images I’ve included below reflects the diversity of plant life in the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. The rustic Australian exhibit reminded me of scenes I had observed on Australia’s Kangaroo Island when we visited there several years ago. 

This entry was posted in Education, My Work, Travel.


  1. Judy Grimes August 30, 2020 at 9:45 am #

    Been there and seen these but never with the attention you give them. Gorgeous!

    • Stu Dale August 30, 2020 at 3:59 pm #

      Thanks for both comments Judy. I hope you and Al are well.

  2. Alan Flynn September 1, 2020 at 10:54 pm #

    A wonderful read Stu and beautiful photographs.


    • Stu Dale September 2, 2020 at 7:47 am #

      Thank you Alan! The BTA is a very interesting place to visit and photograph.

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