Posts Tagged ‘Saguaro National Park’

Arizona has the most national parks and monuments of any state in the Union. This is one of the most delightful attractions of our other “home state”. At 21 total, Arizona beats out the second place California (eighteen) by three.

Of course California has ten National Parks to Arizona’s three, but those three are doozies: the Grand Canyon, Saguaro, and Petrified Forest. Among the National Park Service (NPS) managed National Monuments are: a Heritage Area (Yuma); a Historic Park (Tumacacori); two National Recreation Areas (Lake Mead and Glen Canyon); two National Historic Trails (the Old Spanish and the Juan Batista de Anza); a National Memorial (Coronado); two National Monuments which are also National Historic Sites (Hubbell Trading Post and Ft. Bowie); and one on the Gila River Indian Reservation (Hohokum Pima) which isn’t even open to the public. There are National Monuments which protect ancient cultural ruins, unique vegetation and habitat and a volcanic cinder cone. There’s one jointly managed by NPS and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Parashant Grand Canyon.


There are also four BLM-managed Monuments created by Bill Clinton’s Presidential Proclamations in 2000 and 2001. With the addition of these units, virtually all of desert Arizona south of I-8 is protected in some way be it military, reservation, national wildlife refuge, NPS or BLM.

While this is good, as a visitor looks around many of these desert preserves, it appears there is little money and/or people power to protect them. Two threats are tantamount: illegal off-road vehicle use and illegal immigration and drug smuggling. For example, large segments of dirt road access in the northern section of Sonoran Desert National Monument have been closed due to damage caused by off-road vehicles leaving even these off-road routes where tracks or dust got too deep.

And although illegal immigration numbers have dropped in recent years, the realities of borderland living (which also must now embrace widespread drug smuggling) remain. Some of the worst effects are in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which abuts the US/Mexico border. Not only are many of the backroads now closed for safety reasons, Quitobaquito, an oasis of fresh water in the desert which we were lucky enough to visit in the 1980s, is no longer open because of water quality and trashing problems. The border fence has created its own problems in washes and arroyos. Sadly, visitation and back country permits at Organ Pipe have dropped since the 1990s.


Still, for all its problems, I love this borderland place. And all its public lands inviting us to visit.


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One of the most exciting denizens of the Sonoran Desert is the Saguaro—spiny, grey green sentinels towering above the palo verde, mesquite and cholla desert. Last week we took a stroll up the Bajada Wash Trail in Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain West District, just north of the Red Hills Visitor Center.

Picturesque, statuesque, these saguaro are among the “old ones” of the desert forest. Up to 150 years old and weighing in at 16,000 pounds or more (that’s 8 tons!), they rise 50 feet above the dirt and broken rock. Here’s a slide show of some of the grandest:


© SR Euston

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