T is for Tumacácori National Historic Park {Blogging Through the Alphabet}

North America is full of amazing historical and nature parks and our family likes nothing better than to explore those parks on our any road trips around Canada and the United States. One of the spots we’ve been fortunate to visit is Tumacácori National Historic Park in Arizona.

Located south of Tucson in the Santa Cruz River valley, this historic site helps tell the story of the O’odham, Yaqui, and Apache people who were native to the area. The first Catholic Missions established in Arizona by Jesuit Father Kino in January 1661, this site helps visitors learn about the early days of the missions and how they helped shape the future of the region.

This video from the park visitor center is an excellent introduction to the park and a great way to get kids ready for their visit.

After watching the video and picking up our Junior Ranger booklet we headed further into the center and began working on the activities. The Junior Ranger program here is set up much the same as in other parks with activities for various ages and abilities.

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Besides the Junior Ranger booklets, Tumacacori also provides questions to go along with the video for grades K-5 plus lesson plans and curriculum materials. I like having this kind of material available to use in our homeschool curriculum. Kids love learning with hands-on activities so these are terrific resources to have.

EJ couldn’t wait to see the inside of the chapel. It is in very good condition thanks to the park service who work each year with lime, adobe, and plaster to ensure no further erosion and damage are done to the structure over time. It is preservation here rather than a restoration. There are many images available on the Tumacácori website that show these preservations over the years. 

 As we stood looking up at the front facade it was easy to imagine the bell ringing for mass as families flowed into the chapel. Of course, this was not back in 1691 when Father Kino founded the mission but rather following the Pima Rebellion when this building, the first edifice was built on the opposite side of the Santa Cruz River from the original mission site. The parks service does a terrific job of keeping it in good order.


Because of the difficulties of the area and the fact that there are no images or documents that can show with certainty what the church looked like when it was in use but there are some representations that you can see as you take your tour. Considering the “bones” of the building, I’m certain it was amazing in its heyday.

EJ had fun exploring the courtyard and imagining the storage area filled with the bounties of the harvest (he also wondered if they stored sweets there). This led us to explore the gardens and orchards of Tumacácori. Father Kino brought many garden items to the region and these historic plants continue to be protected in the heritage gardens.


We visited on a chilly day in February so we didn’t stop for a picnic but there is a nice area where you could enjoy a packed lunch while the kids run around on the large grassy areas.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of this historic place but I can assure you a visit to the area is well worth it. You may also like to visit Tubac that is not too far north and has a mix of artisan shops and restaurants plus the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. I know we are looking forward to our next visit!

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