Saturday, February 1, 2014

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Do you know the difference between a National Park and a National Monument?  Neither did I.  According to the National Park Service (NPS) website, 

a national monument is intended to preserve at least one nationally significant resource, 
a national park is usually larger and preserves a variety of nationally significant resources.

Also, the National Parks are established by Congress and are usually associated with purchase of Federal lands designated for that use, while a National Monument is done by Executive Order and applies to land that is already owned by the government.

We got up early and made the 85 mile drive down to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  Then we did our regular routine.  We:
  • Went to the Visitor's Center, 
  • Talked with the Ranger(s), 
  • Got maps, 
  • Checked out the displays inside the building (and outside nearby), 
  • Watched the information introduction video presentation, 
  • Did a quick look through the Gift Shop, and
  • Drove through the park
The Visitor's Center had an informative display showing the Seasons of the Sonoran Desert.  We were very surprised to learn how GREEN the desert here was.  It gets a lot of rain in January and July and it showed.
The Visitor Center is relatively small but with a corresponding gift shop.  We talked to the Ranger, got some maps and then went in to see the 15 minute orientation film.
The Sonoran Desert stretches from northern Mexico throughout Arizona and has a lot of different plants and animals.  This National Monument is the only place in the United States where the Organ Pipe Cactus grows.  But it also has over 20 different types of cacti.
Franklin D. Roosevelt established the National Monument in 1937 and it encompasses over 330 acres and become a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve in 1976.

The best way for us to see a lot of the area was to take the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Drive along the foothills of the Ajo Mountain Range.
It has some paved sections, but is mostly a well-maintained gravel road.
Even though this area has large stands of Organ Pipe Cacti, the Saguaro Cactus is more prevalent.
The Chainfruit Cholla was pretty, but not something we'd want to brush up against.
It was getting near lunch time, so we found a picnic area along the trail and had a sandwich and took some more pictures.
Diablo Wash and the canyons and hills were quite a sight on a pretty day.
It wasn't too long before we began to see the Organ Pipe cacti
Then a bit of a surprise - an arch formed a long time ago.  Named the Arches of Organ Pipe National Monument, there is a hiking trail that leads up to the area.
The drive took about 2 hours and was very pleasant.  Another sensational look at a different kind of desert beauty.

As a bonus, I thought I'd add my latest picture of a Roadrunner.  I am honing my technique a little bit and
adjusting the light and reflection.  One of my better efforts-- of taking a picture of a postcard from the gift shop.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...


  1. I wouldn't have been able to resist that hike up to the arch, you must have amazing self-control...or sore feet!

  2. There is nothing like the AZ desert! Sahauro cactus are my favorite..... along with those cute little roadrunners. Saw one across the street from us a few days ago. Glad you enjoyed Organ Pipe- not many folks get there.

  3. Another one of our favorite South-West areas. We've done that Ajo Loop drive several times plus a couple short hikes & we never get tired of it. We were lucky enough one time to be there when flowers were blooming in the mountains.

  4. I enjoyed your tour of the area and hope to make it out that way soon.

  5. Every time we drive by the sign on I-8 I think, someday we're going to get down there. Thanks for the tour. Your roadrunner sure turned out better than mine. But mine wouldn't sit still.

  6. When we were there a big share of it was closed to the public due to drug trafficking..We did that loop though and was amazing..and left the GMC with some Arizona pinstriping!

  7. Nice of that Road Runner to stay so still on that postcard for you to get its picture. With my photography skills, I probably would have missed it! ;c)

  8. Love your technique of picture postcard taking! LOL

    We didn't make it down to Organ Pipe, but we were just north of there. Next time we will have to take a detour and get down there... very pretty!

    Karen and Steve
    (Blog) RVing: The USA Is Our Big Backyard

  9. Thanks for the tour, we haven't been there in about 10 years. It's so beautiful there.

  10. We camped there for a week last year and have talked about it many times since. Thanks for the reminder of just how nice it is there. Enjoy the sunsets!!