Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

organ-pipe-cactus-national-monument

Oh, the ride to Rocky Point. If you’re like me, you can’t seem to get there fast enough. When the Lady of the Sea of Cortez is calling, I don’t want to keep her waiting. It’s like that every time. One highlight of these road trips is passing through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. It also stands out every time. So, if you visit Puerto Peñasco, and drive through Arizona, here is the quick story on this unique area.

Protecting 516 square miles of the Sonoran Desert, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. For Rocky Point travelers, it offers a stunning stretch of more than 30 miles along AZ-85 in Southern Arizona. It runs up to the U.S. border with Mexico.

arizona-highway-85

If cactus were ever taking over the world, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument might be a good starting point.

Picture a giant cluster of cacti as far as the eye can see. All sizes and shapes. But it’s not just one organ pipe cactus after another. The wilderness desert wonderland is an example of nature’s diversity.

You’ll see saguaro, ocotillo, prickly pear, chainfruit cholla, and more among the desert plants. Coyote, javelina, diamondback rattlesnake, desert tortoise, and red-tailed hawk are some of the animals you’ll see.

The early morning hours have been my best times for seeing animals. Though I often see coyotes at the Why, Arizona gas station, I like calling them “Whyotes.” One winter night, my son and I stopped for a hungry javelina crossing the road in Ajo, Arizona. Like curious little kids, we followed him, taking photos of him searching for dinner near some oblivious campers.

organ-pipe-cactus

But back to the Organ Pipe National Monument. It has plenty of exhibits and activities in the park such as hiking, biking, camping, horseback riding, scenic drives, and ranger programs. I have not spent much time there because of always being so anxious to get to Rocky Point. Or, I’ve stayed as long as possible in Mexico and have reasons to get home.

If you do visit, the U.S. Park Rangers are among the nicest people you could meet. I remember asking one of them, “Does anyone know the total of cactus in the park?” He answered by saying, “My official answer is a lot!” He was right. There are 330,000 acres making up The Organ Pipe National Monument. Every single acre has multiple forms of cacti on it. Sure, you can make a guess doing the math if you want. But “a lot” is a good enough answer for me.

NOTE: Keep in mind to watch the speed limit when driving through Organ Pipe National Monument. The U.S. Park Rangers do have the authority to enforce the law on the grounds. I have seen them enforcing traffic violations such as speeding on AZ-85. So be safe and be careful.

organ-pipe-cactus-national-monument-sunset

Speaking of safety, some of those setting suns behind the mountains in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument can be quite dangerous. The skies are so colorful. The scenes are so beautiful.  It’s difficult for a driver to keep their eyes on the road. (This explains why I make a point to not be driving during the spectacular sunsets in Puerto Peñasco over the Sea of Cortez). 😊

Should you want more information on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, you can stop in the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. It’s located a few miles north of the U.S./Mexico border and is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can also visit the park’s website. Or call them at (520) 387-6849.

Meanwhile, I will probably just keep enjoying the views riding through this southern most Arizona treasure.

 

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