Saguaro National Park

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Saguaro National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
Full of saguaros - Saguaro National Park - Pima County, Arizona, USA - 3 April 2015.jpg
Saguaro cacti
Map showing the location of Saguaro National Park
Map showing the location of Saguaro National Park
Location Pima County, Arizona, United States
Nearest city Tucson
Coordinates 32°15′0″N 110°30′0″W / 32.25000°N 110.50000°W / 32.25000; -110.50000Coordinates: 32°15′0″N 110°30′0″W / 32.25000°N 110.50000°W / 32.25000; -110.50000
Area 91,716 acres (37,116 ha)[1]
Established October 4, 1994[2]
Visitors 820,426[3] (in 2016)[4]
Governing body National Park Service
Website Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park, in southern Arizona on the outskirts of Tucson, is 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.


Saguaro National Monument in 1935

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 2016 was 91,716 acres (37,116 ha)[1] of which 70,905 acres (28,694 ha) is designated wilderness.[5] 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 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 that 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.[6] On October 4, 1994, Congress elevated the monument to National Park status.[2]

Facilities in the park include more than 165 miles (266 km) of hiking trails.[7] The National Park Service publishes safety guidelines for these hikes, including advice about how to avoid extreme heat, dehydration, flash floods, cactus spines, snakes, cougars, and other dangers.[8]

Rincon Mountain District (east)[edit]

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).[9] 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.[10] The site closest to a road is the Douglas Spring Campground, which requires a hike of about 6 miles (10 km).[11] A wilderness permit is required for all overnight stays.[10]

Panorama of Saguaro National Park

Tucson Mountain District (west)[edit]

Hohokam petroglyphs

Kinney Road and Picture Rocks Road intersect in the Tucson Mountain District of the park. The Tucson Mountains are one of the four mountain ranges that surround Tucson. The saguaro cactus is native to the Sonoran Desert and does not grow naturally elsewhere.[12] 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.[13] A mature saguaro may grow up to 60 feet (18 m) tall and weigh up to 4,800 pounds (2,200 kg) when fully hydrated.[12]

Hohokam petroglyphs etched into large stones are easily seen in the Tucson Mountain District. The Signal Hill Trail, which begins at the Signal Hill Picnic Area, leads to an area with dozens of examples of the 800-year-old rock art.[14]


Mammals inhabiting the park include cougars, coyotes, bobcats, white-tailed deer, mule deer, javelinas, gray foxes, black-tailed jackrabbits, desert cottontails, ring-tailed cats, white-nosed coatis, ground squirrels, and packrats.[15]

Some of the bird species include great horned owls, ravens, kestrels, turkey vultures, roadrunners, woodpeckers, hawks, quails, and hummingbirds.[16]

Reptile species include desert tortoises, diamondback rattlesnakes (one of the more commonly seen snakes), coral snakes, gila monsters, short-horned lizards, spiny lizards, and zebra-tailed lizards.[17]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Park Service Land Resources Division Listing of Acreage (Summary)" (PDF). National Park Service. 2016-12-31. p. 12. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  2. ^ a b "The National Parks: Index 2009–2011". National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2013-12-31. Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  3. ^ "Annual Visitation by Park Type or Region for 2016". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  4. ^ "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-09. 
  5. ^ "Saguaro Wilderness". Retrieved 2012-03-07. 
  6. ^ "Standing Tall at 75 – Saguaro National Park Celebrates Its Diamond Anniversary" (PDF). National Park Service. 2008-02-21. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  7. ^ "Hiking at Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  8. ^ "Safety". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  9. ^ "Mica Mountain, Arizona". Retrieved 2011-06-06. 
  10. ^ a b "Saguaro Wilderness Area" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  11. ^ "Park Regulations". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  12. ^ a b "Plant Fact Sheet: Saguaro Cactus". Arizona–Sonora Desert Museum. 2008. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  13. ^ "How Saguaros Grow". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-19. 
  14. ^ "Petroglyphs". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  15. ^ "Mammals of Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  16. ^ "Aves (Birds) of Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 
  17. ^ "Reptiles of Saguaro National Park". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-02-20. 

External links[edit]