Discover the Desert: Spring blooms await at this serene St. George park

ST. GEORGE — As temperatures warm and flowers bloom, it’s a great time for Southern Utahns to get a little fresh air. And this lush park offers a quiet getaway despite its location in busy St. George.

L-R: Host Sydnee Imlay and her guest Monica McGlochlin explore Tonaquint Park, St. George, Utah, March 18, 2024 | Photo by Aaron Crane, St. George News

In this episode of “Discover the Desert,” host Sydnee Imlay and her guest Monica McGlochlin from 99.9 KONY Country enjoy springtime blossoms and family-friendly adventures at the Tonaquint Park and Nature Center.

“I love it out here,” McGlochlin said. “It’s so beautiful. It’s so nice to discover these little, hidden gems here in St. George.”

Tonaquint Park, including the nature center, is 24 acres, said Shane Moore, the city of St. George’s parks and community services director.

“The fun part about the nature center is every time you go, you see something different,” he said. “So it’s fun to come in the springtime when you see some of the flowering plants. It’s fun to go in the summertime, where it’s a good 10 degrees cooler because there’s such a great canopy of trees. It’s beautiful in the fall and winter when we have the leaves change.”

Host Sydnee Imlay (bottom) and her guest Monica McGlochlin  play Leap Frog at Tonaquint Park, St. George, Utah, March 18, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

The park is located at 1851 S. Dixie Drive, a short distance from the Thunder Junction All Abilities Park and the Southgate Golf Club, and gives visitors access to the Santa Clara River Trail. It’s open from sunrise to 10 p.m. unless otherwise posted.

Visitors can enjoy various features, including covered pavilions, picnic tables, barbecues, a playground, a sand volleyball court and the Tonaquint Nature Center, where they can find walking paths, a pond and more, according to the park’s website.

“They have restrooms, in case nature calls while you’re in nature,” Imlay joked.

Moore said Tonaquint Park is “probably one of our premier parks.”

“It’s really special, and it’s exotic in the fact that it has so many large oak trees and so many large trees in general,” he added.

The pond at Tonaquint Park reflects early spring foliage, St. George, Utah, March 18, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

While the pond is full of life, Moore said visitors shouldn’t attempt to join the ducks, swans and turtles for a swim.

“It’s not a good one to swim in,” he said. “It doesn’t turn over a lot.”

Additionally, the nature center offers various outdoor education programs, special events and a summer nature camp. The city encourages teachers, scoutmasters, naturalists and outdoor educators to schedule field trips, according to the center’s website.

Visitors can also pay their respects at the Rainbow Bridge pet memorial. The memorial was inspired by a poem written by Edna Clyne-Rekhy in 1959 after her golden retriever died. It has become a widespread “gesture of comfort” to those grieving the deaths of their furry friends, said David Cordero, the city’s communications and marketing director, in a news release.

Visitors honor their pets’ memories at the Rainbow Bridge in Tonaquint Park, St. George, Utah, March 18, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

Pet owners leave collars, stones and other tokens in memory of their pets.

The park and nature center were built around the same time in the mid-to-late 1990s, but much of the area had to be rebuilt following the 2005 floods. While the pond and building survived, the previous landscaping was “pretty much washed out,” Moore said.

“Basically, we had to restart,” he said, adding that, beginning in 2006, the city began planning Arbor Day projects in the park, which is “how all of the trees that are planted in the nature center area came to be.”

New landscaping was designed with a focus on animal habitat. The city planted various native trees, including fruit trees, pine trees, cottonwood trees and others that are well-adapted to St. George’s climate.

Flowers bloom at Tonaquint Park in St. George, Utah, March 18, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

“It’s so beautiful here,” McGlochlin said. “I’m glad they did that.”

Boy Scouts built birdhouses for native birds, and various species can be seen throughout the park, including American robins, ducks, swans, sandhill cranes and egrets. In the spring, visitors are likely to see ducklings and cygnets — baby swans, Moore said.

“I think the bird watching there is some of the best bird watching in the entire area,” he said.

Additionally, visitors may see squirrels, foxes, rabbits, lizards, coyotes, raccoons and skunks, as well as invasive red-eared slider turtles.

A swan swims on the pond at Tonaquint Park in St. George, Utah, March 18, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

“At one point, we had a resident peacock somebody dropped off, and it lived there for about three or four years,” Moore said.

While Moore said no visitors have reported injuries resulting from a coyote encounter, people should still keep their distance from all wildlife. This is true even of squirrels, which, despite their cuddly appearance, have been known to bite people attempting to feed them.

However, swans are likely the most aggressive critters in the area, and park staff try to block off areas near their nesting site to avoid potential issues. Still, individuals should take care to observe them from a safe distance.

Those interested in feeding local aves can purchase seeds on-site or bring healthy duck snacks from home, such as cracked corn, oats, birdseed, peas, broccoli, rice, chopped lettuce or cabbage and sliced non-citrus fruits. But Moore said visitors should avoid feeding them bread or crackers as these leave the birds unnourished, among other reasons.

Flowers bloom and bees collect pollen at Tonaquint Park in St. George, Utah, March 18, 2024 | Photo by Alysha Lundgren, St. George News

Additionally, Southern Utahns’ canine companions are welcome at the park but must be kept on a leash. This, in part, will help protect local wildlife, Moore said.

“We’ve had incidents before where the dogs have tried to attack the geese or the ducks or the swans, and we don’t want the animals harassed,” he said.

As always, be sure to pack food and water before hitting the outdoors. And there’s no better way to end an adventure than with a scoop of Handel’s delicious homemade ice cream.

Want free ice cream? Leave a comment on social media and tell the Canyon Media crew where we should hike next for your chance to win.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2024, all rights reserved.

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