Saguaro desert
National Park Service

Extreme Zone

Travel from the desert to the poles and from the depths of the ocean to the rocky shores, and learn how living things have adapted to make these ecosystems their homes. Explore the patterns of life in the desert, tour the secret life of a tide pool, dive to the bottom of the sea, and hang out next to a giant polar ice wall.

  • Extreme Zone Desert, fallen cactus animal display


    Feel the heat as you explore in a desert environment, complete with live tortoises, chuckwallas and scorpions. Discover how such desert species are adapted to their surroundings and how scientists study them. Keep an eye out—before you leave, you just might witness a flash flood, a powerful reminder of the role water plays in desert ecosystems.

  • Ice wall in the Poles area of the Extreme Zone


    Enter a polar research station and find out how species survive at the ends of the Earth. Feel the chill of an ice wall, take a seat on a snowmobile, test out insulations and use tree rings to piece together a climate timeline. See why the poles are vital sites for scientific research.

  • ROV simulator in the Deep-Sea Vents area

    Deep-Sea Vents

    Come aboard a mocked-up research vessel and take on the role of a deep-sea vent researcher. Explore the bottom of the ocean with a “virtual” camera, and learn about underwater geysers and the specially adapted—and pretty strange—creatures that live near them. 

  • Touch Tank

    Rocky Shore

    Step outside and explore a tide pool filled with marine animals that spend half of their lives covered by water and the other half exposed to air. See what it takes to live in a place constantly pounded by waves. Find out how organisms hold on in rough surf, then try to snag a meal as “food” races by in the flow.