Explore the ruins of the Southwest and see how local ancestors once lived. Gila Cliff Dwellings, Gila Wilderness,
Photo: Madhu Chikkaraju
A semester in the Southwest will give you a unique glimpse into the American Southwest’s living desert.
You will discover the desert to be alive with plants and animals like coyote, javelina, mountain lions, peregrine falcons, mesquite, and cactus.
The different sections on this semester will take you from the rushing waters of the Rio Grande to the ponderosa pine forests of the Gila Range. You will find yourself jamming your fingers and feet into granite cracks and using a compass to find your way in the vast wilderness.
Along with natural history, you’ll also discover the desert’s rich human history and have plenty of time to travel through the areas once inhabited by ancient cultures, discovering drawings and other traces left behind by our ancestors.
In this land of constant sun, backpacking, climbing, and canoeing will prepare you for the independent student expedition that is the grand finale of your semester.
Wilderness First Aid (WFA)
Hosted by the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS, this 24-hour section covers CPR and first aid specific to wilderness emergencies and is essential for anyone spending extended time in the outdoors.
The Gila Range in New Mexico, the first designated wilderness area in the U.S., or the rugged Galiuro Mountains in southeastern Arizona will be your classroom for the backpacking section. Both destinations offer varied terrain and beautiful surroundings in which to hone your backcountry living skills.
Rock climbing sections start with the basics, progressing from top-roping to multi-pitch and more.
Photo: Rainbow Weinstock
The desert southwest, home to Cochise Stronghold, Mt. Lemmon and Joshua Tree National Park, has some of the finest rock climbing areas in the country.
As you hone your climbing risk management and judgment skills, you’ll move at your own pace from the fundamentals of top-roping and anchor building to more complex techniques like multi-pitch climbing.
You’ll paddle down the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park, Texas, where water has carved out spectacular canyons in the Chihuahuan Desert. You’ll learn how to read whitewater, practice river rescue techniques, and identifying hazards while scouting rapids.
Upon successful completion of the previous sections, you’ll have the opportunity to apply all of your accumulated knowledge by planning and executing an autonomous student expedition. Heading out in the mountains, this is the highlight of the Southwest semester.
“The instructors…amazing people,
both incredibly skilled and at the same time willing to
teach all levels. These people are filled with passion for
what they do.“
Fall Semester in the Southwest, 1999
Haverford College Student
WHAT MAKES NOLS THE
focus on outdoor skills, leadership and environmental studies
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Meet NOLS Semester in the Southwest alumnus, Kat Taylor -- "Everyone comes together on a NOLS course," says Kat. "My course taught me that everyone has something to offer and important knowledge to pass along."