Park has reopened - trails in Tonto National Forest remain closed. Masks are required when visiting the park. Please also wear a mask while recreating outside if social distancing cannot be maintained. Until further notice: Day use parking is limited. Weddings and day use groups are limited to 25 people or less, must practice social distancing, and register ahead of time with park staff. Dump station and showers are closed to anyone not camping at the park. FIRE BAN now in effect - no campfires or smoking (except in an enclosed vehicle).
Arizona’s Sonoran Deserts are full of life. The variety of plant and animal species that can be found within the somewhat arid environment here are diverse, robust, and specially adapted for life in the desert. Lost Dutchman State Park is right in the middle of fantastic desert wildlife habitat and offers park visitors the chance of experiencing these amazing marvels of evolution right from the campground or trail network. Take a look at the featured park species below, and don’t forget to share your wildlife experiences with us both at the contact station, and online to our Facebook or Instagram accounts.
Desert Mule Deer
Desert mule deer are well adapted to thrive in Arizona’s harsh desert environments and can be seen with regularity at Lost Dutchman State Park. Keep an eye out for these desert dwelling ungulates when hanging out at camp, or when you’re enjoying the extensive trail system. Watch for them browsing on the ample forage early or late in the day. Mule deer seem to enjoy spending most of their time in the shade so, if you’re looking for them specifically, it’s a good idea to start your search there. You might increase your chances of seeing desert mule deer in the park by bringing a pair of binoculars with you on the trails.
Most often heard but not seen, coyotes play an important role in Arizona’s vast Sonoran Desert landscape. You may be lucky enough to catch a coyote out hunting at the cusp of daylight either early in the morning, or late in the evening, as they hunt for food. Coyotes are great at keeping the small mammal populations within the park in check and provide an opportunity for park visitors to enjoy fleeting glimpses on occasion. The yips and howls of a coyote pack always seem to accentuate any camping experience…Campers just need to sit back and enjoy the music that captures the true essence of a Sonoran Desert night!
Desert cottontail rabbits can be seen with regularity within Lost Dutchman State Park. They can be entertaining to watch and photograph as they go about their day feeding and socializing with other rabbits. To catch these guys in action, look for movement in the desert brush in the hours near sunrise and sunset. Because the desert cottontail is on the menu for a list of predatory mammals and birds, they don’t stay in one place for too long and will retreat to cover if they feel threatened. Approach slowly while limiting your movement to a minimum to get within good camera range for a few photographs.
Are you cuckoo for roadrunners? Well, you should be! These fast desert dwelling birds are actually the largest member of the cuckoo family! Although roadrunners do spend much of their time on the desert floor, they are capable of short flights while hunting or to escape danger. The varied omnivorous diet of roadrunners allows this large ground bird to be opportunistic in nature. Eggs, small mammals, reptiles, nestlings, and desert fruits and seeds are all on the menu. Venomous spiders, scorpions, and even rattlesnakes are also preyed upon from time to time! Interesting fact: the male roadrunner incubates the eggs while nesting!
Bobcats are prevalent throughout Arizona although they are mostly nocturnal and rarely seen. The best chance to catch a glimpse of one at Lost Dutchman is just after sunrise, before sunset, or after dark. Bobcats and other predators are tasked with controlling the rodent population within the park. Color differences occur throughout their range from grey to reddish and their beautiful mottled fur works well as exceptional camouflage. If you do have a bobcat encounter while in the park, consider yourself very lucky! Hopefully you are able to snap a photo of this special memory to help relive an awesome Lost Dutchman experience.
The Gila monster is the only venomous lizard native to the United States! These slow-moving reptiles spend much of their lives underground due to the hot and arid habitats they call home. Of interesting note, Gila monsters only eat about five times per year, gorging themselves on other reptiles, small mammals, or their favorite food, eggs! Hibernation starts each year around November and males emerge from dens in early spring to search out a mate. Although Gila monsters are venomous, they are not responsible for any known deaths since 1939; please admire these beautiful lizards from a distance.