Saguaro National Park
|Saguaro National Park|
|Location||Pima County, Arizona, United States|
|Area||91,716 acres (37,116 ha)|
|Established||October 4, 1994|
|Visitors||820,426 (in 2016)|
|Governing body||National Park Service|
|Website||Saguaro National Park|
Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona is part of the National Park System in the United States. The park preserves the desert landscape, fauna, and flora in two park districts, one east and the other west of Tucson. The park was established to protect its namesake—the giant saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea)—which at this latitude is near the northern limit of its natural range within the Sonoran Desert.
The park is divided into two sections, called districts, lying approximately 20 miles (32 km) east and 15 miles (24 km) west of the center of the city of Tucson, Arizona. The total area in 2016 was 91,716 acres (37,116 ha) of which 70,905 acres (28,694 ha) is designated wilderness. Each district has a visitor center within easy reach by car from Tucson. Both districts conserve tracts of the Sonoran Desert, including ranges of significant hills, the Tucson Mountains in the west and the Rincon Mountains in the east.
The park gets its name from the saguaro, a large cactus that is native to the Sonoran Desert and does not grow naturally elsewhere. Saguaros grow at an exceptionally slow rate. The first arm of a saguaro typically starts growing sometime between 50 and 70 years of age though it may be closer to 100 years in locations where precipitation is very low. A mature saguaro may grow up to 60 feet (18 m) tall and weigh up to 4,800 pounds (2,200 kg) when fully hydrated. The total number of saguaros in the park is estimated at 1.8 million. Many other kinds of cactus, including barrel, cholla, and prickly pear, are abundant in the park.
Facilities in the park include more than 165 miles (266 km) of hiking trails. The National Park Service (NPS) publishes safety guidelines for these hikes, including advice about how to avoid extreme heat, dehydration, flash floods, cactus spines, snakes, cougars, and other dangers. According to the NPS, many people prefer to visit the park between October and April, when daytime temperatures may reach 70 to 80 °F (21 to 27 °C) and nighttime temperatures may drop below freezing. During the hottest season, May through September, daily high temperatures average more than 100 °F (38 °C).
Rincon Mountain District (east)
The Rincon Mountain District, at the eastern edge of Tucson off South Old Spanish Road, includes the land protected in the original National Monument. The district features the 8.3-mile (13.4 km) Cactus Forest Loop Drive, which provides access to two picnic areas and the central trails. Hiking on this side of the park is readily accessible to visitors not only from the Loop Drive but from trailheads near the east ends of two of the city's boulevards, Speedway and Broadway. In addition, about 7 miles (11 km) south of the park entrance is another trailhead at the north end of Camino Loma Alta. It serves the Hope Camp and Ridge View trails, used by equestrians as well as hikers. This section of the park was added in 1991 when the United States Congress authorized the purchase of an additional 4,011 acres (1,623 ha).
Elevations within the district vary from 2,670 to 8,666 feet (814 to 2,641 m), and annual precipitation varies from about 12 inches (300 mm) at the lowest point to 30 inches (760 mm) at the highest. Plant communities at the lower elevations are typical of the Sonoran Desert, while the Rincon Mountains support conifers and other trees. Specifically, the district's six plant communities from lowest to highest elevations are desert scrub, desert grassland, oak woodland, pine-oak woodland, pine forest and mixed conifer forest. The highest peak in this range is Mica Mountain.
There are no campgrounds accessible by road in the park, but the Rincon Mountain District is open to backcountry camping at designated sites. The site closest to a road is the Douglas Spring Campground, which requires a hike of about 6 miles (10 km). A wilderness permit is required for all overnight stays.
Tucson Mountain District (west)
The Tucson Mountain District lies slightly west of Tucson along North Kinney Road off Gates Pass Road. Smaller than the Rincon Mountain District, it covers 24,818 acres (10,043 ha). This district has 12 miles (19 km) of paved roads and 8.5 miles (13.7 km) of unpaved roads, including the 5-mile (8 km) Bajada Loop Drive. Trails include the Cactus Garden Trail at the visitor center, the Desert Discovery Nature Trail, and the Valley View Overlook Trail, all easily accessible from Kinney Road or Bajada Loop Drive, and the park has more difficult trails such as the Hugh Norris Trail leading to Wasson Peak. Four of the district's five picnic areas are along park roads, and one is accessible only by trail.
Elevation in the district ranges from 2,180 to 4,687 feet (664 to 1,429 m), the summit of Wasson Peak. The Tucson Mountain District, which consists mainly of desert scrub and desert grassland, receives an average of about 10 inches (250 mm) of precipitation a year.
Hohokam petroglyphs etched into large stones are easily seen in the Tucson Mountain District. The Signal Hill Trail, which begins at the Signal Hill Picnic Area along the Bajada Loop Drive, leads to an area with dozens of examples of the 800-year-old rock art.
Mammals inhabiting the park include cougars, coyotes, bobcats, white-tailed deer, mule deer, javelinas, gray foxes, black-tailed jackrabbits, desert cottontails, ring-tailed cats, white-nosed coatis, ground squirrels, and packrats.
Reptile species include desert tortoises, diamondback rattlesnakes (one of the more commonly seen snakes), coral snakes, Gila monsters, short-horned lizards, spiny lizards, and zebra-tailed lizards.
Twin saguaro and flowering ocotillo
- Geolocation via Google Earth. These are the coordinates for the Rincon Mountain District (east) Visitor Center.
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- "Directions". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
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- "Basic Information". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
- "Nature and Science". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
- "Plant Fact Sheet: Saguaro Cactus". Arizona–Sonora Desert Museum. 2008. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
- "How Saguaros Grow". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
- "The Saguaro Cactus" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "Cacti / Desert Succulents". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
- "Hiking at Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
- "Safety". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-19.
- "Enjoying Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. 2011.
- "SNP History". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "Cactus Forest Drive" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
- "Getting Around". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- "Rincon Valley Area" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- "Water in Saguaro Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- "Mica Mountain, Arizona". Peakbagger.com. Retrieved 2011-06-06.
- "Saguaro Wilderness Area" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
- "Park Regulations". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
- "General Information" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- "The Creation and Evolution of the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park" (PDF). National Park Service. 2016. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
- "Petroglyphs". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
- "Mammals of Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
- "Aves (Birds) of Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
- "Reptiles of Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
- "Lesser Long-Nosed Bats" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
- "Mexican Spotted Owl" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-21.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saguaro National Park.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Saguaro National Park.|
- Official site: "Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
- "Friends of Saguaro National Park". Retrieved 2011-06-03.
- David Leighton, "Street Smarts: Namesake of Harrison Road helped create Saguaro National Park," Arizona Daily Star, Sept. 6, 2016