Louise Speaks: Well our day has finally come to an end. We are camping overnight at Catalina State Park 9 miles north of Tucson. The campground is at the foot of the Catalina Mountains but pretty much right in town. You can literally walk to the closest mall. We’re here for two days to relax and enjoy the environment plus do some sightseeing if the others in our group choose to. Catalina State Park has an average elevation of 3,000 feet but varies dramatically with high ridges and low creek beds. The park includes 5,493 acres and is close to the town of Oro Valley.
Catalina State Park sits at the base of the majestic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is a haven for desert plants and wildlife and nearly 5,000 saguaros. The 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons and streams invites camping, picnicking and bird watching — more than 150 species of birds call the park home. The park provides miles of equestrian, birding, hiking, and biking trails which wind through the park and into the Coronado National Forest at elevations near 3,000 feet. This scenic desert park also offers equestrian trails and an equestrian center provides a staging area for trail riders with plenty of trailer parking.
This area became a State Park just by chance and with a lot of help. The original idea in the early 1970’s, was to rezone a 4,000-acre parcel of land lying east of U.S. Highway 89, just north of Tucson. The property known as Rancho Romero was located adjacent to the western slopes of the Coronado National Forest’s Santa Catalina Mountains. The proposed development included a variety of housing units that would accommodate 17,000 people, which would surround golf courses along the Canada de Oro and Sutherland Washes. When this rezoning request came before the Pima County Planning and Zoning Commission, there was so much opposition from the public that the proposed plan was put on hold. At a meeting of the Parks Board that was held on November 19, 1973, a study indicated that this specific area would meet the criteria for a State Park. Much opposition was met by both parties. However, hrough the efforts of the Rancho Romero Coalition, an interested citizen’s group from Tucson and an outgrowth of the Oracle Road Greenbelt Committee, and other action groups, Representative Charles King introduced House Bill 2280 early in the 1974 session to establish Catalina State Park. Finally House Bill 2280, passed and was signed by Governor Jack Williams on May 1, 1974. After a complicated series of land trades, leases, purchase of land and initial construction of facilities, Catalina State Park was dedicated by Governor Bruce Babbitt and and opened to the public on May 25, 1983.
The park has a great campground with shade trees which was helpful since it was 90 degrees today. The RV park is surrounded by mountains and desert landscape. There is a gift shop at the entrance and the facilities are very nice, with hot showers. Like with most parks in Arizona, hiking seems to be the main activity, but this park also has great bike trails and golf courses are not too far away. This was a great campground and you just can’t beat the Arizona sunsets. Catalina State Park gets a B rating and if you need a place to camp or you want to enjoy some outdoor adventures…all can be achieved here.