In the spring of 2015, Southern Utah introduced one of Utah’s first interactive desert gardens. The garden was built in an effort to teach a healthier way to landscape in the dry desert. But another main function of the garden is so parents can teach their children about the beauty of the desert. Since the garden is high up on the parkway over looking the city, the views from the garden itself are breathtaking. You can see the entire Saint George valley area and even further on the many clear (non-polluted) days we have. The Red Hills Desert Garden is a project by the Washington County Water Conservancy District (WCWCD), the City of St. George and the Virgin River Program. Not only will you see a lot of native plants but the have replicated a slot canyon where you can walk through and see the area’s endangered fish species. Along the paths you might also spy some 200 million-year-old dinosaur tracks, keep your eyes open!
Nestled on a sandstone bluff, this nature spot overlooks all of St. George City. The views of the historic heart of downtown, old airport hill, and surrounding mountains in the distance are sure to please. Aptly named, it’s location is on Red Hills Parkway. Easily accessed from exit 8 off of I-15 and a 1.3-mile drive northwest. Likewise, a simple navigation in Google Maps will bring you to this hidden gem in Southern Utah too. Once you arrive you will find there are bathrooms, drinking fountains and a gazebo area with shade and seating. Throughout the entirety of the space, there are signs directing you around to the different sections. As well as, covered benches and swinging seats scattered in the garden.
Over 250 different types of plants contribute to the flora of the year round garden. The indigenous plants include succulents, cacti, and many other desert species. The Beavertail Prickly Pear cactus makes an appearance throughout the design space. In Spring and Summer you will see the incredible magenta blooms of the Beavertail Prickly Pear Cactus. The Jumping Cholla is a plant you are sure to see adventuring with ATV & Jeep Adventure Tours. Blooming red in the Fall, it’s sharp spines will “jump” on you at the slightest brush. Hence the name “Jumping.” Not the prickly cactus type? Look for the soft Coral Rain Lily. A very drought-tolerant pink colored flower that blooms in the spring. The over 250 varieties of plants at the garden are all indigenous to our local area. See if you can find all 250 different plants at the garden!
As a result of the man-made stream that runs through the garden, the Virgin River Program was able to bring in some rare and endangered fish. The rare and beautiful Virgin River Chub is among five other fish that make up part of the fauna of this particular area. At the end of the slot canyon, the stream flows through a few viewing spaces where you can try to spot the different variety’s of fish. Typically you will see many types of lizards, squirrels, rabbits and maybe even the Mojave Desert Tortoise . The Mojave Desert Tortoise is among the species of turtles or tortoises protected and preserved in Southern Utah. Only a few feet from the Red Hills Desert Garden you will find a special conservation area for the tortoise.
Events at the Garden
The Red Hills Desert Garden involves the community with events and workshops held year-round. Xeriscaping is the highlight of the garden, known as landscaping in a “style that requires little to no irrigation.” There are special events held on the property through out the year. Mid-October, they decorate for the Scarecrow walk and Haunted Canyon. Scarecrow’s of all fashion line the sandstone walkways of the garden. Just a few days after Thanksgiving The Red Hills Desert Garden becomes a holiday wonderland. Thousands of colorful, twinkling lights glisten alongside the garden. Thousands of bright, cheery lights wrap around the 5 acres. Don’t forget to check with the City of St. George to see when events are happening at the Desert Garden.
The garden not only raises awareness of conservative water use in the desert but does a spectacular job showcasing Southern Utah’s unique flora and fauna. Hop off the plane, step out of the car, its the perfect place to go and stretch your legs with views like no other! After you’ve done that, head on over to your Full-Day Adventure with ATV & Jeep Adventure Tours and keep an eye out for these indigenous plants.
Written By: Kathryn Bowler