VIP4 The grotto

Take the opportunity to stop at the little grotto southwest of the Visitor Center. This garden area and the metal plaque mounted on a large rock were installed for KPNO's fortieth anniversary, in October 1998. The scene depicted on the plaque is a Tohono O'odham man supporting the tribe's prominent "man in the maze" symbol on his shoulders. The symbol represents Elder Brother Iitoi tracing his journey home atop Baboquivari Peak. Some consider the symbolism to portray birth and one's journey through life, ending in death at the center of the maze. However, if you follow the maze pattern, you can bypass its dark center and find yourself at a small corner of the pattern, a place to reflect on life's journey before the final move to the center of the maze. To the west of the grotto is the brick administration building with offices and a library for the use of astronomers on the mountain.

Visitors of all ages enjoy Kitt Peak's grotto. The plaque on the boulder honors the Tohono O'odham culture with a native man shouldering the "man in the maze" symbol.

A dry sky island

High and dry describes Kitt Peak well. Even though the mountain receives 18 inches of precipitation per year, its elevation does not allow snow to stockpile, or support perennial streams. How then, does the southwest's largest city of telescopes survive in such a dry climate? The answer is deceptively simple: Gather rain in a bucket. In this case, though, the "bucket" is a concrete catch basin that can store up to 10 million gallons of water. Additional water, if needed, is trucked up the narrow, winding road.

Water is the desert's most precious resource. Kitt Peak astronomers and support personnel conserve at every opportunity. Please remember this, too, when you visit, and use Kitt Peak's water wisely.

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