Family Sleepover: "A Night in the Mission"

powell sketch of mission
H.M.T. Powell's original sketch of the Tumacácori mission around 1849.

Who Slept at Tumacácori, REALLY?

After the mission was abandoned in 1848, the adobe walls of Tumacácori's church, convento, and cemetery became a waypoint for travellers of all sorts. In fact, the very first recorded image of Tumacácori was sketched into the journal of H.M.T. Powell on his way to California to look for gold. Cowboys, military troops, livestock, and families sought refuge from the desert sun here among the ruins of the mission. Even after its establishment as a national monument in 1908, Tumacácori remained an emergency shelter for locals flooded out of their homes. Early park rangers nearly always slept onsite to keep a close eye on the ruins and be available for work at all hours.


Upcoming Family Sleepover

Saturday, April 24, 2021
7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

We're going virtual this year! Spread out a sleeping bag on the living room floor and tune in for some old-fashioned campout content. Expect art activities, cooking, storytelling and music, and a final ghost story best told with a flashlight held under your chin.

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YouTube: Tumacácori National Historical Park - YouTube Channel

Families who’d like to purchase the “Sleepover To-Go” kit from the Western National Parks Association can get one in person from the park store or order by phone at 520-377-5065. Supplies may be limited.

staff in old timey national park service uniforms
Tumacácori mission staff, circa 1917.

NPS Photo / Anita Badertscher

A Night in the Mission (in 1917)

The year is 1917. You and your fellow park ranger recruits will be spending the night as caretakers in the ruined church of Tumacácori. Before you can go to sleep, through, there will be work to do:

- A report has come in of a neighbor's calf loose in the grounds. You'll need to find it and rope it.
- A local miner says he found "Spanish treasure" somewhere in the mission. You suspect this report to be false, but better investigate to make sure. Real artifacts need to be protected and catalogued.
- Light the lanterns for a night "patrol" of the grounds. Best to throw some candlelight into those dark and spooky shadows...

Once the work is done, dinner's been eaten, and camp established, everyone can relax around the campfire for songs and s'mores. In the morning, you'll be awarded your badges and cut loose to explore the park further on your own.

boy waking up outside church
As an alternative to sleeping inside the church, visitors may choose to bed down on the museum patio under the stars.

NPS Photo

How it (Usually) Works

Arrival time

All participants should meet in the picnic area by 5:00 p.m. (Note that the Visitor Center and Museum will be closed by this time. If you wish to explore these facilities, plan to do so by arriving early or wait until the morning when they open at 9:00 a.m.)

Tumacácori National Historical Park
1891 East Frontage Road
Tumacácori, AZ 85640
Get directions

Departure time

All activities conclude by 8:30 a.m. the following morning. Participants are welcome to explore the mission grounds on their own at this point.

graphic of map with three sleeping areas indicated


Participants will sleep in their own sleeping bags/bedding in one of three locations:
  • Inside the mission church
  • Outside the museum entrance on the back patio
  • In your own free-standing tent in the Fiesta grounds. No stakes or campfires are permitted here.
All other areas of the mission grounds such as the cemetery, ki, orchard or convento are off-limits for camping.


The program fee includes a full hot dinner (menu varies but always includes a vegetarian option), s'mores, and continental breakfast empanadas prepared fresh and on-site. If you have any dietary restrictions or allergies, please let us know ahead of time so that we can be sure to have appropriate food available.


Registered participants will be able to park behind the Visitor Center, near the picnic area or in the Fiesta grounds near the tent sites. You will receive a specialized gate code valid only for that evening so that you may have access to your vehicle throughout the program.

What to Bring:

  • Comfortable, layered clothing and closed-toe shoes.
  • Something comfortable and family-appropriate to sleep in. Consult our Weather page for monthly average highs, lows, and the 7-day forecast.
  • A pillow
  • A sleeping bag or sheet/blanket to sleep in. (We provide sleeping pads and, if you prefer, a historically appropriate scratchy wool blanket!)
  • A free-standing tent (if you registered to camp in the Fiesta grounds)
  • Toothbrush and other toiletries and personal items. There are no showers here.
  • Refillable water bottle.
  • Flashlight
  • Inflatable mattress (optional)
  • Old-timey clothes (optional)

What Not to Bring

  • Extra food or beverages unless specific arrangements have been made in advance.
  • Metal-framed cots
  • Firearms
  • Pets
  • Non-registered extra guests
  • Amplified music

Safety Information

  • Park rangers trained in emergency medicine will be on duty throughout the evening. Other emergency responders are minutes away.
  • If you have an emergency during your sleepover, contact one of the rangers or dial 911.
  • If you have medication that needs to be refrigerated, please let us know upon your arrival.
  • If you have any other medical concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us prior to the sleepover at (520) 377-5064.
  • For your safety and the protection of fragile park resources, we ask all participants to stay with the group.

Considerations for all ages

This program is oriented for families of all configurations. There are no age restrictions, but we do ask that you consider how your family members may cope with rustic camping arrangements such as:

  • Sleeping on hard and/or uneven surfaces
  • Sleeping in close quarters with other families
  • Sharing limited bathroom space with others
  • Walking from the church to the restrooms (about 100 yards) at night
  • Adults are responsible for modelling excellent behavior and managing younger family members. Consider whether the members of your party are capable of sharing a group experience responsibly while taking care of fragile park resources.

How to (Usually) Sign Up

Space is limited to 60 participants so early registration is required. Registration fee includes all food, activities, and entrance to the park. Registration begins November 1st.

  • $30 per adult (age 16 or older)

  • $15 per child (under 16)

Cancellation Policy

Due to Weather

Sleepovers will proceed as scheduled, rain or shine. In the case of EXTREME weather, park personnel will contact registered participants by phone to inform them of program cancellation status. There are no refunds or last-minute cancellations except as determined by the park.

Due to Low Participation

Sleepovers require a minimum of 40 participants, maximum of 60. Sleepovers which do not have 40 participants by Sunday midnight prior to the sleepover will be CANCELLED. Your money will be fully refunded, or you may go back into the website to reschedule.


A full refund will be given only if the sleepover is cancelled by the park. If tickets are cancelled by the customer prior to Sunday midnight, a $3.00 per ticket transaction fee will be charged. After Sunday midnight, once a tour is confirmed, there will be NO REFUNDS. Please help out! If you are NOT going to use your tickets, please cancel them. This will make them available to others who can use them. Your help is greatly appreciated! After Sunday midnight, any remaining seats can be reserved online or by contacting the park at 520-377-5060.


Contact Melanie Rawlins at (520) 377-5064 or call the Visitor Center at (520) 377-5060.

Last updated: April 24, 2021

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 8067
Tumacacori , AZ 85640


520 377-5060

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