Bighorn sheep are among the wildlife species at Ironwood Forest National Monument.

Courtesy of Friends of Ironwood Forest/

Ironwood Forest National Monument — a preserve of scenic landscapes and some of the longest-living trees in the Sonoran Desert — is little known to many Tucsonans, but a free event Saturday, March 18, offers an introduction to the site northwest of Tucson.

Sponsored by the Friends of Ironwood Forest, the Meet the Monument event begins at 8 a.m. and continues to 2 p.m.

Activities include nature walks on gentle terrain featuring botany, geology and photography instruction. A longer hike of 5 to 6 miles, beginning at 8:30 a.m., is designed for experienced hikers.

Speakers will present talks on national conservation lands, bighorn sheep of the Ironwood Forest, saguaros and other topics.

Visitors will get a closeup look at the monument’s star ironwood trees, which can live up to 800 years or longer.

“Meet the Monument is an educational event that gives the public the opportunity to learn about the Sonoran Desert and Ironwood Forest National Monument firsthand,” said Jim Avramis, co-chair of the event.

“The Friends of Ironwood Forest realize that there are many people who are not yet familiar with this national monument located in our backyard,” Avramis said. “The event is designed to get people out on site and introduce the monument’s unique, undeveloped beauty to the community.

“The day is structured to be a learning experience, not a festival,” he said.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@tucson.com or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz