Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Birdwatching on the Palo Verde Trail
Organ Pipe cactus thrive in the southern portion of the Sonoran desert. They are not often seen in the United States but 120 miles southwest of us, sharing 31 miles of international border with Mexico is the National Monument dedicated to showcasing their prickly beauty. 
We decided to make a day trip of discovering these unusual cacti so we packed a lunch, grabbed the dog, gassed up the Jeep and headed south.

Organ Pipe Cactus.
Much of the drive was through remote desert landscape and on Tohono O'odham Reservation land. We were happy to spot another crested saguaro on the way.

We arrived at the Visitor Center to pick up a map and trail recommendations. It is a lovely building surrounded by a nature trail that showcases the cacti and other plants commonly seen in the area. 

A small Spring provides water for migrating birds and desert 
dwellers. We were able to watch the rapid movements of Costa's hummingbirds as they enjoyed the garden. Their purple crowns were so different than the Anna's and Black Chins we have been seeing up at Picacho Peak. There were cactus Wrens, Gila Woodpeckers and some really big ravens. We spotted some small lizards near the water but none of the larger animals were obvious in the heat of the day.

The Organ Pipe cactus is large, almost as tall as Saguaro. Its long branches have the same kind of corrugated structure. They grow on warm slopes with Southern exposure in order to collect the most light. They can have crested tops like some of the rare saguaro. The Organ Pipe Cactus got its name for the sound made when the wind flows over it's needles and between it's branches. It kind of made me wish we had gone on a windy day.
There are 2 trails in the Park that allow dogs. The Palo Verde Trail connects the Visitor Center and the Campground, and the Campground Loop follows the perimeter of the campground looking out over the desert and the mountains beyond. Many of the parks other trails branch off from them heading out into the desert via old paths that miners used when they were digging silver out of the hills.

The RV Park has a fantastic location. We were thrilled to learn that our 40 foot rig will fit here and plan on visiting it sometime in the future. It is rustic camping with designated generator hours that I'm sure we will be adequate to keep our batteries charged.
I would love to spend more time in this remote wilderness, exploring the desert trails.

Cactus Wren on an Ocotillo

Our day was made sweeter by a beautiful sunset as we drove north back to Picacho Peak and dinner at the Cactus Cantina when we got there.


  1. We really enjoyed Organ Pipe when we explored it last year, Bonnie. What a beautiful remote area!

    1. It is definitely on our list of places to go back to.