Exploring the Saguaro Forest

Trip Start May 01, 2013
Trip End May 01, 2014

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Where I stayed
South Forty RV Park, Tucson, AZ
What I did
Saguaro West Saguaro National Park
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of United States  , Arizona
Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 309 - Today we met with our friends Becky and Don and headed up to this amazing park about 25 miles from our campground.  Being from the East Coast, I had never been so up close to so many cactus.  The varieties are amazing - some in bloom, and some about to.  Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to do it justice, so we will go back.  There is an amazing Visitor's Center to spend time in as well as many driving trails and walking trails.  We did take a short hike up to the Petroglyphs along the scenic Bajada Loop Road.

The Saguaro Cactus is protected by the National Parks and has been since 1933 at this park. Here is the 411 on this type of cactus:
1.  Water is collected with a network of roots that lies three inches below the desert surface and stretches as far from the trunk as the plant is tall.
2.  Small root hairs collect and grow in response to moisture.  They may soak up as much as 200 gallons of water which will last the plant one year of no rain.
3.  Saguaros live approximately 200 years.  The first "babies"  which appear as little round balls (then arms) don't appear until 75-100 years.

4.  These cactus are slow growers.  In the 1st year the plant may be 1/4 inch tall.  In 15 years the plant may reach 12" in height.  At 30 years they begin to flower and produce fruit.  By 50 years it is averaging 7 feet.  This is when the first arms or babies start to grow.  When the plant is 100 years old it is approximately 25 feet tall.  By 150-200 years the cactus reaches 50 feet and can weigh as much as 16,000 pounds!!! Other than old age, cactus can die of disease, lightning strikes, severe drought, animals eating all the seeds, high winds can blow over the tall and heavy ones and even poaching (people will take them for landscaping).

In the desert there are over 25 species of cactus:  hedgehog; barrel; fishhook; teddybear cholla; and prickly pear are some seen in this park.  The Creosote bush is the most widespread of all North American desert plants.  Mesquite trees supply shade for the small animals in the desert. Ocotillo sprouts leaves within days after a rain and then drops them as moisture disappears.    Desert Marigold is an annual and is abundant in the park.

Some of the birds and animals that call the park home include Gila Woodpecker; Gilded Flicker; American Kestrel; Lucy's warblers; Cactus Wrens; Western Kingbirds; Elf Owls; Screech Owls; Red Tail and Harris Hawks; honeybees, jack rabbits; western diamondback rattlesnakes; roadrunners; quail; desert tortoise; gila monsters; javelinas (piglike animal) and kangaroo rats!!

So now you have been to the high desert (over 2,200').
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Pamela on

Spring is definitely the best season to visit the desert. We took Adam and Shauna to that park when they were little. They loved all the wildlife. Be sure to try some prickly pear cactus jelly. Its really good :)

Claudia on

Great info for future travels! You should see the blooming desert up the mountain from Canyon Trail. Desert Daisies all over the area. Other flowers and blooms make for an inspiring place to walk though I miss my walking partner!!! Enjoy your time in Tucson!

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