Monday, March 21, 2016

Saguaro National Park, Arizona


When we attended a family wedding in the Phoenix area of Arizona last autumn, my husband and I decided on a free day to take a two hour drive south to Tuscon, Arizona, where Saguaro National Park is located. We had visited this park once before, and wanted to see it again. Saguaro National Park has two districts--East and West-- that are separated by the City of Tucson.  It is a 30-45 minutes transit between the two districts depending on the route and traffic but visitors pay only one fee to see both sides. 

(All photos in this post will enlarge if clicked on)


Tucson, Arizona is home to the nation's largest cacti--the giant saguaro--the universal symbol of the American west. These majestic plants are only found in a small portion of the United States in southern Arizona, and few stray ones in southern California, to western Sonora, Mexico.


The giant saguaro cacti, which can reach a height of 50 feet, and live 150 to 200 years, are unique to the Sonoran Desert, which covers the valley floor and rises into the Rincon and West Tucson mountains. Since 1933 these extraordinary cacti has been protected within the Saguaro National Park


You can see the size of these ancient cacti by us standing next to them in the photo collage above. Saguaro cacti are very slow growing.  A ten year old cactus may only be 1.5 inches tall, but they can grow to be between 40--60 feet tall. When fully hydrated with rain water it can weigh between 3200 to 4800 pounds.  Most saguaro cacti grow "arms" as they age, that can number up over 25, and are covered with protective pointy spines.  They flower in late spring and produce fruit in summer. Bats, bird and mammals eat the fruit and distribute the saguaro seeds.


In a section of the park we parked our car and walked one of the trails.


 It was nice to see the cacti up close...


...and read the educational metal placards along the trail, some of which I show above. Click on to enlarge to read them.


In addition to the saguaro cacti there are many different types of cacti, trees and shrubs in the park.


We saw barrel, cholla and prickly pear cacti.


There were many beautiful cacti to look at and photograph.


 It was thrilling to see occasional hawks flying overhead.


 We stopped in the eastern Visitor Center in the Rincon Mountain District.


From its back porch there was a view of a deep "forest" of saguaros!


There is an interesting and well done exhibit just outside the center that walks around 15 major plants that live in the Sonoran Desert, with a plaque that contains the name and description of each plant.


We also saw examples of holes in some of the saguaro that contain holes that nesting birds or Sonoran desert mammals made, as well as the skeletons of dead saguaro.  The strong woody ribs of the dead cacti have been used to build roofs, fences, and furniture.


We were enjoying our visit very much until we unfortunately saw the skies begin to darken with heavy clouds.


Soon we heard the rumbles of thunder, so we headed back to the safety of our car in case there was lightning.


As we drove for the park exist the sky turned dark and ominous but the few rays of sunshine gave the landscape a deep jewel tone that was exquisite,


As we drove out towards the exit the weather improved somewhat, until....


...we entered the highway where we saw the wind causing a dust storm in the distance.


These dust storms, called "haboobs" after the Arabic word for "blasting/drafting," can be very intense and dangerous when they are large and black out the sun, with choking dirt and sand.


Fortunately, this dust storm was not too intense...


...and we were able to drive past it without incident.


We headed back to our families that live in suburbs of Phoenix and enjoyed the rest of our visit.  


In the next post I'll show you our drive through another Arizona National Park --the Petrified Forest.  It is an amazing sight you won't want to miss! 


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56 comments:

Denise inVA said...

An amazing area and your photos are great. I love to visit the desert but haven't done so in several years. Those cactus are a sight to behold.

Magnus said...
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diane b said...

What interesting landscape and plant life. Thanks for taking us along . The dark sky and bright foreground makes a great shot.

Cathy Keller said...

The southwestern US is really lovely is its own unique way. We have friends in Tucson and their sunrises and sunsets are just breathtaking! Thank you again! Have a wonderful week!

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat, I would love to visit this park someday. I love the saguaros and all the cactus plants. The desert landscapes is beautiful. Neat capture of the dust storm, I am glad all was well. Lovely post and photos. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

How beautiful! It's been years since I visited and I would love to go back. Love the stormy sky and dust storm photos. How amazing! You have to keep the camera handy, don't you? Happy Spring! Hugs, Diane

From the Kitchen said...

It is truly amazing how diverse the U.S. landscape can be. Great photos!

Best,
Bonnie

The Furry Gnome said...

Such a different place from your usual Colorado shots!

LV said...

You gave us a grand tour of this area. Great photos and scenery.

Linda W. said...

Those tall cacti are so cool! A national park I'd like to visit one day.

happywonderer.com said...

Wow! Love this park. Such interesting landscape to enjoy! Happy blue Monday to you!

Donna said...

Pat this is one of my favorite places...and it is especially gorgeous in a few weeks when the cactus are blooming! I wanted to visit it when we were in AZ in the beginning of March, but we ran out of time.

Donna@Gardens Eye View
and LivingFromHappiness

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Pat, you have captured the beautiful Saguaro cacti wonderfully! It's amazing the age and beauty these lovely specimens add to the desert. We experienced one of those dust storms when we were in Arizona last fall as well. They can be quite dangerous. Your photos are amazing of the storm in the distance. I enjoyed my visit with you as always! Have a wonderful day! ♥

Linda Kay said...

We visited there a couple of years ago, and it is really fascinating.

Brooke Neal said...

It wasn't until I lived in AZ that I appreciated the beauty of the desert!

Pamela Gordon said...

It was very interesting to read about the saguaro cactus and to see so many of them. I never thought about what one would look like when it died so it was nice to see photos of the dead ones too. Amazing plant life! Thanks for sharing all this information Pat. I hope you enjoy the week ahead.
Blessings, Pam

jeannettestgermain said...

Thank you for sharing this trip. In the botanical garden in South. Calif. I saw one of these giant cacti, but to see a whole mountain full of these, must make you feel small:) Beautiful and interesting captures!
Thank you for being a part of SEASONS this week -am sure the others will also enjoy your trip!

ladyfi said...

Wonderful shots. I love those cacti!

Susanne said...

Those cacti are so cool and you got some really good photos of them. A fascinating area indeed!

Jackie said...

I'm not a real desert fan but your pictures are lovely. I think that area is nicer to visit in the winter. I have seen those cacti in person and they are amazing.

Margaret Adamson said...

the variety of Ccacti is amazing an the shts of the dust clouds is stunning.

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Fascinating post.....love your photos!

Jeanne said...

Hello Pat, We have been in Arizona but only to drive through. I know we would enjoy the Saguaro National Park and the cacti that grow there. It is hard to imagine how big the Saguaro cactus grows and weighs. There is so much to see in the US and I hope to be able to take another Western trip to explore many more National Parks. The photo of the hawk is a great shot. I love birds and it is exciting to see one that we don't see that often.

Thanks for your visit and sweet comment today. I am enjoying this Blog party very much.
Hugs,
Jeanne

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

Oh my! Love the photos. We visited the park last December and totally adored it. I only visited the West District. Hope to go back one day. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to see the Saguaro's cousins, the Cardones (in the Baja Peninsula). That was quite a sight too. I have been in cacti heaven lately.

carol l mckenna said...

All very amazing photos! Great work and what fun you are having!

Happy Week to you ~ ^_^

Rambling Woods said...

Well worth the drive. Interesting post as I know little about cacti... Great photos... Michelle

Vee said...

It has been many years since I visited. Those saguaros have hadly changed at all. =D Wish that I could say the same. I never saw the eastern section nor the deep forest of saguaros...quite spectacular! Speaking of which, that sky was looking pretty intense. Glad that you left when you did and returned to your family in Phoenix safely.

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots from national park. Very different from what we see here.

Pondside said...

The saguaro is like the cactus of childhood drawings! I didn't know that their territory was so limited.
Your photos of the pre-storm sky and of the dust storm are wonderful. What a trip you had in the fall!

Kalantikan said...

I've been seeing photos of the Saguaro Park, but everytime i am still awed by the age and longevity of these plants. Looking at the wide angle shot of the last photo however, the patches where the saguaros are seem not so wide, really just small patches considering the whole area.

jandi said...

what an incredible place! i would so love to visit! those cacti are just amazing! {visiting via the seasons link} have a lovely day!

Deb @ Frugal Little Bungalow said...

Loved seeing all of these amazing cacti and those dust storm photos looked quite ominous indeed!

Fun60 said...

Cacti would never grow wild in the UK so I am fascinated by your photos. The change in weather enabled you to take some spectacular photos especially the one with the dark blue sky.

Cheryl @ TFD said...

Another fabulous post! I loved seeing the cacti and learning more about them, I've never been to this park and now I'm wanting to visit. We visited the Petrified Forest many years ago and I'm anxious to see your post and photos. Thanks for sharing with us, Pat. Have a nice week and Happy Easter!

Sheila said...

Hello Pat, seeing those fabulous photos of the Saguaro cacti brought back memories of our trip to Arizona last February. As we were driving south from Sedona to Phoenix we saw hundreds of Saguaro cacti. We visited a small park near Mesa and and although we were enjoying being there so much we had to hustle back to the car as a storm approached. But just like your photos the contrast of the dark skies made our photos even more spectacular.

Daniela said...

What a stunning place to vist, my darling Pat, with amazing plants and animals we cannot even imagine here in Northern Italy ... and waht a wonderful sky, especially when it was preparing for the storm ... you were lucky to see it but not to be involved, it wasn't very strong, probably !


Hope you're having a blessed week,
I'm sending much love for wishing you a Very Happy Easter ahead !

Dany

Al said...

Beautiful photos - the changeable weather adds a lot of drama to an already impressive landscape.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I've seen saguaros on trips to Phoenix but never made it to that park. Those cacti are HUGE! I wouldn't want to get too close to those sharp spines!

riitta k said...

What an interesting post. It would be fantastic to see those giant saguaros with my own eyes! Thank you for sharing.

Janet said...

What an interesting place to see! Those cacti are amazing!

Sheryl Josephine Page Raun Chambers said...

jolly cactus there.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

We were there years ago when our girls were little. Loved visiting Colossal Cave while we were in the Tucson are too. Can't wait to see the Petrified forest post. That's one of the areas we never got to during our many trips to Arizona.

Linda (More Fun Less Laundry) said...

Pat, Thank you for the BEAUTIFUL photos of this park and the saguaro! I have always been intrigued by saguaro, and I recently listened to a book on tape about a mystery involving the theft and protection of these beauties!! (it was fiction but this saguaro info was so interesting) I hope you are feeling better after eye surgery. Happy Easter! It must be so much fun with your precious grandchildren nearby. Linda

Lisa Kerner said...

Those Cacti are huge... and they are on my must see list. Can you tell my list is very long, heehee. Great post!

Lisa @ LTTL

Jim said...


Great skywatch scene

Nanda Kumar said...

Beautiful series!

Art and Sand said...

I think my husband and I need to make a visit to Arizona.

Thanks for sharing at SYC.

podso said...

Amazing photos of the dust storm. It's interesting the contrast in your blog posts now compared to when you lived in NYC and it was mostly urban! I have thought of you this week and hope you were ok in the big storm. It sounded like a lot of homes lost power.

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I loved this NP ... Thanks for your pictures and the memories ... the cacti are wonderful and the ocotillo was almost ready to burst into bloom. Look forward to the next post because we didn't spend time in Petrified ...it was too hot to get out of the car ...have regretted that we can really not honestly say we've seen it.

Butterfly 8)(8 Bungalow said...

Great photos! xoox Su

LV said...

What an amazing cactus presentation. Truly different and enjoyable. I am trying to grow me a few, but doubt they will ever look like any of these.

edenhills said...

That ominous sky is amazing!

Gemma Wiseman said...

An extraordinary variety of fascinating cacti. And some are so very tall. Dramatic scenes of the dust storm too.

Ann said...

Such a gorgeous plant--wish they grew here in Kansas!!!! Thanks for your visit.
Ann

Jenny said...

My husband loves saguaros. He always wants to go on hunts for them.

Thank you for sharing all the magical things you find with us.

XOOXOXOXOOXXOXOOXXOXOXOXOXOXOX

Jenny said...

My husband adores the saguaros. He is always wanting to tour anything to do with them!

This was a wonderful tour.

Thank you for sharing all the wondrous things you find!

XOXOXOXOXOXXOXOXOXOOX