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Please submit refugium permit requests to Bill Hale in the ARO Tucson office at least 1 week in advance. His email address is:


(phone 520-621-5290, fax 520-621-5554).

Site support (for the SMT, Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope (VATT) and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) project) is supplied by the Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO). The observatory site is located at an altitude of 3200 m near Emerald Peak on Mount Graham in the Pinaleno Mountains of Eastern Arizona. The site is within a squirrel refugium. The refugium is an area of limited access, designed to protect the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel subspecies. For this reason, only persons with observatory business are allowed to enter the refugium and they must be in possession of a special permit. In addition, there are restrictions on where in the refugium visitors are allowed to walk. Generally, visiting astronomers will be limited to the immediate area surrounding the SMT site and the access road. Hiking trails are available on other portions of Mount Graham outside of the refugium.

Before proceeding up the mountain, you are required to check in at the base camp. Here you sign in with MGIO and also pick up your permits. Permits are issued by the MGIO support staff during check-in at the base camp. In addition, a separate permit is required for any non-ARO/VATT/MGIO vehicle. The observer's name and vehicle license plate number are required for the refugium permits. This information should be provided to Cathi Duncan in the ARO Tucson office before you arrive. For safety reasons, all personnel must sign in and sign out at the base camp for each and every trip up to the observatory site. The SMT is significantly higher in elevation than either Pico Veleta or Kitt Peak. The effects of altitude vary from individual to individual but they are generally quite noticeable. Persons should be cognizant of the health hazards of working at high elevations.

We recommend that persons in poor health do not attempt to work at the observatory site.

ARO has a limited number of vehicles and they primarily are used by the staff for trips to the SMT. The ARO therefore encourages observers to obtain a rental vehicle for use in Tucson and trips to Safford or the observatory outside of staff travel times. This will allow maximum flexibility for visitors. For observers who fly into Tucson, the ARO will make hotel reservations upon request, normally at the Plaza International. This hotel is a five minute walk from the ARO offices on campus. Affordable transportation from the airport to the hotel is available from "Arizona Stagecoach"-a shuttle service, although groups of two or more may prefer a taxi. Car rental facilities are also available at the airport. The University of Arizona is approximately 20 minutes by car from the airport. Please arrange travel details with Cathi Duncan in advance The ARO offices in Tucson are located on the first floor of Steward Observatory (SO). The SO is located at 933 N. Cherry Avenue (between 2nd Street and the UA Mall) and is directly opposite the Kitt Peak National Observatory building. The office hours for the Tucson ARO offices are generally between 08:00 and 17:00 Arizona time, Mondays through Fridays. Parking on campus is very limited, so if you have a car, please contact the ARO on where to park.

Figure 1.1: Tucson Map

The MGIO base camp is located 120 miles (190 km) from campus (about 2 hours drive). Drive east on Interstate 10 to exit 352, then north on State Route 191 to State Route 366. This latter highway is also called The Swift Trail. The base camp is at 1480 W. Swift Trail. The base camp is directly across the street from the Federal Prison which is clearly visible by its barbed wire double fence. All personnel must stop at the base camp to sign in and obtain all required permits. In addition, if you do not have a radio and keys, you can pick them up here. However, it is preferred to get these items at the ARO office in Tucson. Since there is a locked gate, you will need the keys. The radio serves two purposes: (1) Safety, (2) it allows you to find out if any traffic is on the access road.

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For problems or questions regarding this web contact [tfolkers{at}email{dot}arizona{dot}edu].
Last updated: 11/08/11.