Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert Geology

The Sonoran Desert is considered as a North America's largest and hottest desert with surface area of 311,000 square kilometers.

The desert covers large parts of the Southwestern United States and of Northwestern Mexico. Sonoran Desert passes through the western region of the United Nations.

Sonoran Desert is surrounded by the Sonoran Floristic region of the Madrean Region in southwestern North America which is a part of the Holarctic Kingdom. The desert comprises of variety of animals and plants such as Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) and Organ Pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi).


The Sonoran Desert is located in the western states of Arizona and California. Its area covers southwestern Arizona and the southeastern part of California and part of Mexico. It is over 100,000 sq. miles and is named after the state in Mexico. It has the distinction of being the most bio-diverse deserts in North America.

The Sonoran Ecosystem

This desert is divided into 7 distinct parts based on vegetation, climate and geology. Because of its location, it not only has rivers but also mountains which play a vital role in supplying water and keeping different species alive. Quite a lot of the flora are tropical in origin and it is famous for the Saguaro cactus. This delicate ecosystem has a number of plants and animals which are under threat of extinction.

Local Climate and Rainfall

The Sonoran desert has the distinction of being pretty wet – it receives anywhere between 3 – 16 inches of rain a year. It rains during two seasons, summer and winter. Average high temperatures in the winter reach 52˚F and 85˚F and above in the summer. In some parts of Mexico, it can get as high as 134˚F even in the shade.


Since the Sonoran desert covers a vast area across 3 states and two countries, people can travel from 200 feet to 4000 feet above sea level.


Since this desert has a varied topography, rivers and rainfall, different types of soil are present. Expect to see sandy and alkaline soils in sand dunes and parts of the area and Pinacate soils too. Igneous and metamorphic materials support all kinds of plant and animal life forms.


Creosote bushes, White Bursage, Acacia, prickly pear, Larrea scrub, Burro Bush, Ironwood and Mesquite are some of the subtrees that can be found in this area. The Saguaro Cactus is the most well know and easily recognizable species of cactus in this area. Look for Cholla, Organ pipe and Silver Dollar cacti.


Of all the deserts in N. America and the world, this is considered one of the most interesting as it has a variety of plants and animals. The Sonoran desert has over 2000 species of plants, over 300 types of birds, more than 90 kinds of reptiles and 20 types of amphibians. The reason for such biodiversity is because of the rain it receives through 2 different seasons. Some of the well-known desert bugs are stinkbugs of all kinds – Say’s, Creosote, Spined, Painted stink bug and so on. There are thousands of species which have adapted to the conditions and thrive in this ecosystem.

Botanical Gardens

Arizona has botanical gardens in Scottsdale, Tucson and Phoenix. Visitors get a look at the beautiful plants and landscapes that form the desert. Information on living in the desert, conservation, tours and nature photography and many other events are available.

Jeep Tours

There are quite a few options for those who want to experience the Sonoran desert and all that it has to offer. Take a tour and check out the high desert, waterfalls, underground rivers, canyons and also ancient Indian villages. Customized jeep tours along with knowledgeable tour guides are available year round.

Sonoran Desert Facts

Countries United States, Mexico
States Arizona, California, Sonora, Sinaloa, Baja California
Part of North American Desert ecoregion
Borders on Mojave Desert (north)
Colorado Plateau (north and east)
Peninsular Ranges (west).
Lowest point  
 - location Salton Sea
 - elevation −226 ft (-69 m)
Biome Deserts and xeric shrublands
Plant Madrean Floristic Region


The Desert’s location latitude and longitude is 25° to 33° North and 105° to 118° west.

The water bodiesnext to Sonoran desert are Salton Sea, Gulf of California and Pacific Ocean and mountains located near to this are Mount Kofa and Mount Catalina, Mount Catalina.

Sub-region Deserts

  • Colorado Desert
  • Gran Desierto de Altar
  • Lechuguilla Desert
  • Tonopah Desert
  • Yuha Desert
  • Yuma Desert


The Sonoran Desert includes

  • 60 mammal species
  • 350 bird species
  • 20 amphibian species
  • 100 reptile species
  • 30 native fish species
  • 1000 native bee species
  • 2000 native plant specie

Parks, Conservation Centers and Research Facilities

  • Sonoran Desert protected areas include
  • Arizona–Sonora Desert Museum
  • Sonoran Desert National Monument
  • Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park—Sonoran Desert flora arboretum
  • Anza–Borrego Desert State Park
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Joshua Tree National Park
  • Reserva de la Biosfera el Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar—Pinacate National Park, in Sonora, Mexico
  • Indio Hills Palms State Reserve
  • Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge
  • Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge
  • Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
  • South Mountain Park
  • Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute

Top Attractions in Sonoran Desert 

  • Summer monsoon or summer rainy season (early July to mid- September)
  • Autumn (October & November)
  • Winter (December & January & February)
  • Spring (From early to late February through April)
  • Foresummer drought (May & June)
  • Sonora Plains
  • Central Gulf Coast
  • Vizcaino
  • Magdalena
  • Foothills of Sonora

Wildlife Animals / Fauna

  • Banded Gila Monster
  • Bobcat
  • Cactus Wren
  • Coyote
  • Desert Bighorn
  • Javelina
  • Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
  • Sonoran Pronghorn Antelope
  • Sonoran Toad

Sonoran Desert National Monument

Location Maricopa County & Pinal County, Arizona, USA
Nearest city Phoenix, AZ
Coordinates 33°0′6″N 112°27′18″W
Area 496,400 acres (200,886 ha)
Established January 17, 2001
Governing body U.S. Bureau of Land Management


  • Barrel Cactus
  • Brittle Bush
  • Desert Ironwood
  • Chain Fruit Cholla
  • Creosote Bush
  • Crimson Hedgehog Cactus
  • Ocotillo
  • Palo Verde
  • Saguaro Cactus
  • Soaptree Yucca
  • Teddybear or Jumping Cholla
  • Triangle-leaf Bursage
  • Velvet Mesquite

Edible Wild Plants

Acer grandidentatum – Bigtooth Maple Nolina microcarpa – Sacahuista
Amaranthus palmeri – Carelessweed Oenothera elata – Hooker's Evening Primrose
Anemopsis californica – Yerba Mansa Opuntia engelmannii – Cactus Apple
Arctostaphylos pungens – Pointleaf Manzanita Opuntia ficus-indica – Barbary Fig
Arundo donax – Giant Reed Papaver somniferum – Opium Poppy
Brassica tournefortii – Asian Mustard Parkinsonia florida – Blue Paloverde
Calandrinia ciliata – Fringed Redmaids Parkinsonia microphylla – Yellow Paloverde
Capsella bursa-pastoris – Shepherd's Purse Passiflora caerulea – Bluecrown Passionflower
Carnegiea gigantea – Saguaro Passiflora foetida var. arizonica – Arizona Passionflower
Ceanothus fendleri – Fendler's Ceanothus Phaseolus acutifolius var. tenuifolius – Tepary Bean
Celtis ehrenbergiana – Spiny Hackberry Phemeranthus aurantiacus – Orange Flameflower
Celtis laevigata var. reticulata – Netleaf Hackberry Physalis acutifolia – Sharpleaf Groundcherry
Chamaesaracha coronopus – Greenleaf Five Eyes Pinus discolor – Border Pinyon
Chorispora tenella – Crossflower Plantago ovata – Desert Indianwheat
Claytonia perfoliata – Miner's Lettuce Populus fremontii – Fremont Cottonwood
Conyza canadensis – Canadian Horseweed Populus tremuloides – Quaking Aspen
Cucurbita foetidissima – Missouri Gourd Porophyllum ruderale – Yerba Porosa
Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa – Buck-horn Cholla Portulaca oleracea – Little Hogweed
Cylindropuntia spinosior – Walkingstick Cactus Proboscidea louisianica – Ram's Horn
Dasylirion wheeleri – Common Sotol Prosopis velutina – Velvet Mesquite
Daucus pusillus – American Wild Carrot Quercus gambelii – Gambel Oak
Dichelostemma capitatum – Bluedicks Ratibida columnifera – Upright Prairie Coneflower
Echinocereus spp. – Claret-cup Cactus Rhus trilobata – Skunkbush Sumac
Encelia farinosa – Brittlebush Robinia neomexicana – New Mexico Locust
Ephedra trifurca – Longleaf Jointfir Rosa woodsii – Woods' Rose
Ferocactus wislizeni – Candy Barrelcactus Rumex hymenosepalus – Canaigre Dock
Fouquieria splendens – Ocotillo Salix gooddingii – Goodding's Willow
Helianthus annuus – Common Sunflower Salvia columbariae – Chia
Helianthus petiolaris – Prairie Sunflower Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis – American Black Elderberry
Hoffmannseggia glauca – Indian Rushpea Sisymbrium irio – London Rocket
Hyptis emoryi – Desert Lavender Solanum fendleri – Fendler's Horsenettle
Juglans major – Arizona Walnut Sonchus asper – Spiny Sowthistle
Juniperus deppeana – Alligator Juniper Sonchus oleraceus – Common Sowthistle
Juniperus monosperma – Oneseed Juniper Taraxacum officinale – Common Dandelion
Justicia californica – Beloperone Thelesperma megapotamicum – Hopi Tea Greenthread
Linum lewisii – Lewis Flax Trianthema portulacastrum – Desert Horsepurslane
Lycium pallidum – Pale Desert-thorn Tribulus terrestris – Puncturevine
Malva parviflora – Cheeseweed Mallow Veronica anagallis-aquatica – Water Speedwell
Marrubium vulgare – Horehound Viola canadensis – Canadian White Violet
Medicago lupulina – Black Medick Vitis arizonica – Canyon Grape
Medicago sativa – Alfalfa Yucca baccata – Banana Yucca
Melilotus officinalis – Yellow Sweetclover Yucca elata – Soaptree Yucca
Mimulus guttatus – Seep Monkeyflower Yucca madrensis – Sierra Madre Yucca
Nasturtium officinale – Watercress


  • Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina)
  • Palo Verde (Parkinsonia florida)
  • Desert Ironwood (Olneya tesota)
  • Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis ssp. arcuata)
  • Crucifixion Thorn (Canotia holacantha)

Chihuahuan Desert

Country Mexico, United States
Region North America
Coordinates 30°32′26″N 103°50′14″W
Highest point  
 - elevation 3,700 m (12,139 ft)
Lowest point  
 - elevation 600 m (1,969 ft)
Length 1,285 km (798 mi)
Width 440 km (273 mi)
Area 362,600 km2 (140,001 sq mi)

Arizona - Sonora Desert Museum

Date opened September 1, 1952
Location Tucson, Arizona
Land area 98 acres (40 ha) (21 acres (8.5 ha) accessible to the public)
Number of animals 12,370
Number of species Over 230
Annual visitors 400,000



Fauna of the Sonoran Desert

Aphonopelma chalcodes Desert woodrat Merriam's kangaroo rat Sonoran collared lizard
Arizona night lizard Desert kangaroo rat Mesquite mouse Sonoran desert toad
Allen's big-eared bat Euproserpinus phaeton Mourning dove Sonoran mountain kingsnake
California leaf-nosed bat Ferruginous pygmy owl Arizona pocket mouse Sonoran sidewinder
Lesser long-nosed bat Gilded flicker Cactus mouse Black-chinned sparrow
Mexican big-eared bat Fringe-toed lizard Bezy's night lizard Bendire's thrasher
Mexican long-tongued bat Gila monster Ovis canadensis nelsoni Curve-billed thrasher
Pallid bat Gila topminnow Spotted owl Colorado River toad
Spotted bat Black-tailed gnatcatcher Pacific burrowing wasp Abert's towhee
Bell's sparrow Lawrence's goldfinch Collared peccary Trans-Pecos striped whiptail
Lark bunting Round-tailed ground squirrel Phainopepla Urosaurus graciosus
Varied bunting Hellinsia triton Pinacate beetle Bell's vireo
Canyon wren Desert horned lizard Pituophis catenifer affinis Cassin's vireo
Chionactis palarostris Flat-tail horned lizard Mountain plover Gray vireo
Common desert centipede Anna's hummingbird Pyrrhuloxia Plumbeous vireo
Desert cottontail Black-chinned hummingbird Gambel's quail Lucy's warbler
Crotalus atrox Broad-billed hummingbird Western Diamondback Rattlesnake Western pipistrelle
Crotalus cerastes cercobombus Costa's hummingbird Chihuahuan raven Western pygmy blue
Crotalus cerastes laterorepens Antelope jackrabbit Ring-tailed cat Chihuahuan Striped Whiptail
Crotalus mitchellii Black-tailed jackrabbit Greater roadrunner Chihuahuan spotted whiptail
Crotalus scutulatus Mexican black kingsnake Sagebrush sparrow Desert grassland whiptail lizard
Crotalus tigris List of Wildlife Refuges of the Lower Colorado River Valley Sauromalus ater Trans-Pecos Striped Whiptail
Desert bighorn sheep Litaneutria minor Sceloporus magister White-throated woodrat
Desert box turtle Litaneutria obscura Scolopendra polymorpha Gila woodpecker
Desert iguana Zebra-tailed lizard Smerinthus saliceti Cactus wren
Desert pupfish Loxosceles deserta Common Mexican tree frog Yuma myotis
Desert tortoise Mearns coyote Sonora mud turtle

List of Cities

  • Phoenix
  • Tucson
  • Mexicali
  • Palm Springs
  • Palm DesertBaja

Flowers / Wildflowers

Amsinckia menziesii Eriophyllum lanosum Nama demissum
Anemone tuberosa Galium aparine Nicotiana obtusifolia
Bahia absinthifolia Geraea canescens Penstemon parryi
Brickellia coulteri Glandularia gooddingii Physaria purpurea
Carlowrightia arizonica Haplophyton crooksii Proboscidea parviflora
Centaurium calycosum Isocoma tenuisecta Rafinesquia neomexicana
Cryptantha albida Justicia californica Salvia columbariae
Cryptantha angustifolia Machaeranthera gracilis Senna covesii
Daucus pusillus Malacothrix californica Senna wislizeni
Datura inoxia Marina parryi Silene antirrhina
Dichelostemma capitatum Melampodium leucanthum Sphaeralcea ambigua
Encelia farinosa Monoptilon bellioides Trixis californica

Hotels List

  • Best Western Space Age Lodge
  • Knights Inn Gila Bend
  • Americas Choice Inn And Suites

Hiking & Trials

Turpentine Trail Hike

  • Length : 10.3 miles of maintained trails.
  • Rating : Moderate.
  • Elevation : 1,150-1,760 feet.
  • Where : From Phoenix, take Loop 202 east to Power Road (Exit 23) in Mesa.

Bobcat Trail

  • Distance : 1.01 miles
  • Difficulty : Easy
  • Elevation Change : 135 feet

Cactus Wren Trail

  • Distance : 1.41 miles
  • Difficulty : Easy to moderate
  • Elevation Change : 234 feet

Desert Tortoise Trail

  • Distance : 1.1 miles
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Elevation Change : 341 feet

Dixie Mountain Loop

  • Distance : 3.82 miles
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Elevation Change : 1,322 feet

Dixie Summit Trail

  • Distance : .22 miles
  • Difficulty : Difficult
  • Elevation Change : 346 feet ascent

Great Horned Owl Trail

  • Distance : 3.1 miles
  • Difficulty : Easy to Moderate
  • Elevation Change : 1,200 feet

Hawk’s Nest Trail

  • Distance : .39 miles
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Elevation Change : 237 feet

Union Peak Trail

  • Distance : .45 miles
  • Difficulty :  Moderate to Difficult

Western Vista Trail

  • Distance : .34 miles
  • Difficulty : Difficult
  • Elevation Change : 291 feet

Valle Verde Trail

  • Distance : 1.2 miles
  • Difficult :  Moderate
  • Elevation Change : 286 feet

Reptiles & Amphibians

Couch's Spadefoot Desert Tortoise Horned Lizards Western Shovelnose Snake
Sonoran Desert Toad Western Banded Gecko Sand Lizards Western Hognose Snake
Sonoran Green Toad Whiptails Western Blind Snake Western Patchnose Snake
Red Spotted Toad Gila Monster Rosy Boa Gopher Snake
Canyon Treefrog Desert Iguana Garter Snake Night Snake
Northern Casque-headed Frog Chuckwalla Common Kingsnake Lyre Snake
Leopard Frog Common Collared Lizard Longnose Snake Arizona Coral Snake
Western Box Turtle Spiny Lizards Coachwhip Rattlesnakes
Sonoran Mud Turtle Tree Lizard Sonoran Whipsnake

Sonoran Desert Images / Photos

Sonoran Desert Grasshopper Mouse
Sonoran Desert Grasshopper Mouse
Sonoran Desert Jaguar
Sonoran Desert Jaguar
Sonoran Desert Kingsnake
Sonoran Desert Kingsnake
Sonoran Desert Kit Fox
Sonoran Desert Kit Fox
Sonoran Desert Landscape
Sonoran Desert Landscape
Sonoran Desert Map USA
Sonoran Desert Map USA
Sonoran Desert Rodents
Sonoran Desert Rodents
Sonoran Desert Yellow Flowers
Sonoran Desert Yellow Flowers