Icons of the Old West


Photo Credit: Mary Zalmanek

By Mary Zalmanek
December 16, 2015
Filed under National Parks, Travel



Approximately 1.6 million saguaro cacti can be found within Arizona’s Saguaro National Park

If you haven’t seen a saguaro cactus since John Wayne quit making westerns, there’s no better place to see this icon of the Old West than Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. In 1933, President Herbert Hoover proclaimed this tract of land with a remarkable stand of cacti, the Rincon Mountain District, as a national monument. Record low temperatures in 1937 and 1962 killed many of the giant cacti, and decades of trampling by cattle doomed many of the young ones. The National Park Service acquired all grazing rights in the Cactus Forest in 1979, and today the saguaros are making a comeback. Thirty miles away, another remarkable stand of cacti west of Tucson, known as the Tucson Mountain District, was added in 1961. The park’s two distinct districts cover 140 square miles.

Saguaros are native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, California and Mexico. They grow slowly, only 1½ inches in the first 10 years. A 40-foot saguaro with multiple arms is likely to be more than 150 years old.

Both districts have visitor centers. The park has more than 150 miles of designated hiking trails. RVs are prohibited on some of the park’s narrow and winding roads.

For more information, call 520-733-5153 or visit www.nps.gov/sagu



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