Saguaro National Park

Written by on January 15, 2018 in AZ Outdoor Adventures - Comments Off on Saguaro National Park

Silhouetted by the setting sun, the Giant Saguaro Cactus is the universal symbol of the American Southwest. It flourishes only in the Sonoran Desert areas of Arizona, New Mexico and Mexico and only below 4,000 feet or where there is little risk of frost. Nowhere are these majestic cacti as beautiful as in Saguaro National Park. Saguaro West (the Tucson Mountain District) and Saguaro East (the Rincon Mountain District) make up the two halves of the 91,000 acres park, located to the east and west of Tucson.

The Saguaro can grow up to fifty feet tall and weigh up to ten tons. The cactus grows incredibly slowly. Studies in the park show that a saguaro grows only 1 to 1.5 inches in its first eight years of life. These young plants are hard to find as they tend to grow in the shelter of a nurse tree – typically palo verde, mesquite or ironwood. The cactus must be 35 years or older before the plant flowers, and at least 75-years-old before the cactus grows its first branch or arm.

Saguaro cacti are the home of many species of birds. The gilded flicker and Gila woodpecker dig out nest cavities. When those nests are abandoned, elf owls, screech owls, purple martins, finches and sparrows often move in. Large birds, like the Harris’s and redtailed hawks, use the Saguaro for nesting and hunting platforms. Saguaro cacti also provide a valuable source of food for animals. In late summer, the juicy fruit provides moisture and an energy-rich food during a time of scarcity for many animals including coyotes, javalina, jackrabbits and mule deer.

Throughout the 1900s, the area was actively mined and then over-grazed, endangering these fragile plants. Saguaro National Park was established to protect this fragile desert environment. The park offers plenty of things to do:

Tucson Mountain District:
• Hike the Valley View Overlook Trail
• Explore the Red Hills Visitor Center
• View the petroglyphs at the Signal Hill Picnic Area
• Learn how the Native American utilized the cactus

Rincon Mountain District:
• Tour the Cactus Forest Loop Drive by car or by bike
• Hike the Freeman Homestead Trail and learn about homesteading in the Old West
• Hike the many trails in the Cactus Forest Loop area

While there are no camping area in Saguaro National Park, nearby Tucson offers every amenity — great food, great shopping, terrific nightlife, fascinating museums and a variety of motels, hotels and resorts to suit any taste.

For more things to see and do in the area, check out our list of Top 10 Things To Do in Tucson.

Headquarters and Rincon Mountain District
3693 South Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730-5601
– or –
Saguaro National Park — Tucson Mountain District
2700 North Kinney Road
Tucson, AZ 85743
Visitor Information – Rincon Mountain District: (520) 733-5153
Visitor Information – Tucson Mountain District: (520) 733-5158
Headquarters: (520) 733-5100
http://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm

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