It began as an idea last century, and it has grown and flourished for 60 years.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is one of Pima County's top attractions, where visitors learn about the Sonoran Desert's plants, animals and geology.

Since its opening on Labor Day 1952, millions of people have strolled the 21-acre attraction, where they can see favorites such as mountain lions, coyotes and javelinas.

Bill Woodin, a herpetologist, served as the museum's executive director for 17 years, beginning in 1954.

He recalls the special day when the museum was officially inaugurated, turning a dream into reality.

"I went out there in the summer of 1952 as a volunteer, and the museum opened Labor Day that year, and I can remember wondering if anyone was going to come and what was going to happen, and we sat and watched the cars pour in," Woodin says.

"The roads were all dirt, so the valley was filled with dust," he says. "But people poured in, so it was very gratifying."

For the 60th anniversary, the museum staff will highlight new programs and/or construction projects such as the new "Rivers to the Sea" exhibit, which incorporates the Sea of Cortez as an important part of the Sonoran Desert.

There is also a focus on keeper interactions and special classes at the Baldwin Education Building Library, among other offerings.

Craig Ivanyi, current executive director, like Bill Woodin before him, he was drawn to the attraction about 14 miles west of Tucson.

"Oddly enough we both start as volunteers, we both wind up being herpetologists, I was telling him earlier it must be something in water," Ivanyi says.