The giant saguaro cactus towers above the Arizona landscape. Found only in the Sonoran Desert, the long-lived cacti is a staple of western movies and photographs. The Sonoran Desert covers parts of eastern California, southern Arizona and northern Mexico. A national park near Tucson is dedicated to this majestic plant. The park is divided into two sections, one east of the city of Tucson, the other west. I had the opportunity to visit both in recent weeks.
Originally a National Monument, it was created by the stroke of Herbert Hoover’s pen in 1933. It wasn’t as simple as that, however. Over a decade earlier, botanists and historians from the University of Arizona wanted to preserve an area of desert east of Tucson due to a large concentration of the magnificent succulent. Over the years, a series of setbacks and successes eventually added a tract of desert west of the city, and in 1994, Saguaro National Monument gained status as a National Park.
As with most of the national parks I’ve visited, a loop drive meanders through the park. There are pull-offs where visitors can stop and admire the view, but pay attention to the road in front of you. We found it not uncommon for where there is only a single lane, one way traffic halts because someone up ahead stopped on the roadway to grab a quick photograph from the car window.
The many young cacti in the stand above are all youngsters. The saguaro’s iconic “arms” don’t start appearing until they are 60-75 years old. Most of the ones in the image above probably started their life after the park was formed. A couple of years ago, I featured a post about the mighty saguaro. You can read more about their life cycle here. The gallery of images below feature a mixture of shots from both the east and west units of the park. They were captured on different days a few weeks apart. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.