SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK, Tucson, Arizona
What a place, a real forest of cacti. The best way to describe it is to quote from Shifra Stein's "Day Trips from Phoenix, Tucson, and Flagstaff". It's a book we've been using to make sure we don't miss something really interesting. Anyway, from the book: "Driving through a stand of saguaros is unlike driving through any other kind of forest. The profusion of angles will constantly delight you. Some saguaros signal with their arms in crazy directions; others stand almost perfectly symmetrical with arms reaching up in supplication. Although a stately plant, saguaros nevertheless strike some humorous poses.
As you walk or drive through the 62,499 acres of this section of Saguaro National Park, you'll be amazed at the endless variety and sheer numbers of the plants. The visitors center has information on the native vegetation, and you'll get an overview of the biology and geology found in this area of the state. Hopefully you'll come away with a better understanding of how plants and animals adapt to an arid existence. Above all, you'll gain a new appreciation for a wondrous plant, the saguaro.
The saguaro cactus is remarkable. A natural desert condominium, it provides homes for a variety of creatures. Several species of birds eat its seeds, live in its walls, and build nests in its arms. By the time a saguaro grows to 20 feet and has its first branch, the plant has lived through seventy-five years of strenuous desert sun, wind and rain. With a root structure stretching for miles just barely beneath the surface, the plant is an unparalled natural balancing act. Superbly adapted to make the most of an unpredictable desert water supply, the plant's accordion-type pleats allow it to shrink during droughts and plump up after rains. Given optimum conditions, secure from bulldozers and development, this queen of the desert can grow to 50 feet and survive to age 200.
Bird-watchers will have a field day at Saguaro National Park. More than fifty species of reptiles also roam around the park. If you've thought of thee desert as an empty place, think again. As you wander through this rolling, saguaro-studded landscape with its endless shades of sun-bleached green, look for desert tortoises, gophers, coach-whip snakes, ground squirrels, peccaries, coyotes, and mule deer. Listen, too, for the whistle of the curve-bill thrasher, the churring of the cactus wren, and a yipping coyote chorus."
After a stop at the visitor center for a 15 minute film on the park and picking up some postcards and other items (Ginger got her Golden Eagle Pass), we drove around the 8 mile loop in the park. Speed limit was 25 mph and I think I got up to that speed one time going down hill. It was beautiful. It seemed that every few minutes either I'd stop and say "look at that!" or Ginger would say, "Stop, stop, look at that!" It took us over an hour to complete the loop. We did stop at one point and get out and walk around a 1/4 miles ecology loop. It was great too! We saw a lot of signs of animals having been around, partly eaten prickly pear cactus, holes in the ground just under some of the plants. We could hear the birds chirping but never did hear any coyotes. A few times we did pull over to the side to let other motorist pass us by. It's so nice to be retired and NOT have to be in a hurry.
We do strongly recommend a visit to Saguaro National Park.
This page was last updated on 05/23/03.