May 29, 2016

ARIZONA : Saguaro National Park - Sonoran Desert

Twilight in saguaro cacti, Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is located in southern Arizona on the outskirts of Tucson and is a part of the United States National Park System. The park preserves the desert landscape, fauna and flora contained within two park sections, one east and the other west of Tucson. The park was established to protect its namesake—the giant saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea). Saguaro in this park are near the northernmost limit of their natural survival zone 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 2011 was 91,442 acres (37,005 ha) of which 70,905 acres (28,694 ha) is designated wilderness. There is a visitor center in each of the two districts. Both are easily reached by car from Tucson, but there is no public transport into the park. Both districts conserve fine 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 which is native to the region. Many other kinds of cactus, including barrel, cholla, and prickly pear, are abundant in the park. One endangered animal, the lesser long-nosed bat, lives in the park part of the year during its migration, together with one threatened species, the Mexican spotted owl.

Saguaro National Monument was created on March 1, 1933 by President Herbert Hoover. On October 14, 1994, Congress elevated Saguaro to National Park status.

Facilities in the park include 150 miles (240 km) of well marked and maintained hiking trails, and shorter walking trails with interpretative information available. Backcountry hiking is not advisable during the hot summer months.

Rincon Mountain District (Saguaro Park East)
The Rincon Mountain District is located at the eastern edge of Tucson, and includes the land protected in the original National Monument. Plant communities at the lower elevations in the park are typical of the Sonoran Desert, while the Rincon Mountains support a temperate coniferous forest. The highest peak in this range is Mica Mountain, at an elevation of 8,664 feet (2,641 m). This side of the park has fewer saguaro than its western counterpart, but they are larger in size due to higher amounts of rainfall and runoff from the Rincon Mountains.

The key feature of this district is its 8.3-mile (13.4 km) Cactus Forest Loop Drive, which provides access to the two picnic areas and the central trails. Hiking on this side of the park is readily accessible to visitors. There are trailheads present at the east end of Speedway and Broadway and these are popular with equestrians, especially on weekends. Off the park's loop road there are several additional trailheads. Each Visitor Center can supply a map of hiking trails in the park.

At the southern boundary of the park is the Hope Camp Trails, which are also popular with equestrians. Access to the Hope Camp Trails is found at the end of Camino Loma Alta. This road is paved, except for the last 200 yards or so. 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).

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 5.9-mile (9.5 km) hike. A wilderness permit is required for all overnight stays. The fee for this permit is $6.00 per campsite, per night. There are no overnight accommodations for recreational vehicles in the park, but facilities are available at Colossal Cave Mountain Park which is ten miles (16 km) south of the Rincon District Visitor Center on Old Spanish Trail.

Tucson Mountain District (Saguaro Park West)
Kinney Road and Picture Rocks Road intersect in Saguaro National Park West. The Tucson Mountains are one of the four mountain ranges that surround Tucson. The Saguaro cactus is native to the area and can be found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert. 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. The Hohokam Petroglyphs that are etched into large stones reside in Saguaro Park West.

Aside from the historical petroglyphs and imposing Saguaro cacti, desert wildlife is abundant. Coyotes, roadrunner, jack rabbits and quail are just a few of the animals that call this park home.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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