Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park offers year-round enjoyment

September 15, 2010, 6:47 am

Saguaro National Park offers visitors an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Sonoran Desert. It was first established in 1933 as a national monument; and in 1975, 71,400 acres west and east of Tucson were named the Saguaro Wilderness Area. In 1994, this area was designated as the Saguaro National Park. The park is part of the Sonoran Desert National Monument, which contains more than 487,000 acres of Sonoran desert.

Saguaro National Park is open year-round, allowing visitors to view the desert's changing landscape with each season. Spring is a favorite season to photograph the profusion of wildflowers in bloom. Prickly poppy, bahia, desert marigold, fairy duster, larkspur, brodiaea, fleabane, gold poppy, lupine, owl's clover and penstemon are just a few of the wildflowers showing off their colorful blossoms. You will also see barrel, fishhook, hedgehog, ocotillo, prickly pear, teddybear cholla, staghorn cholla and pincushion cactus in bloom. Of course, the king of the park, the saguaro, will be wearing its crown of white blooms brilliantly displayed at the tip of its towering trunk and curved arms. Its beautiful blooms are Arizona's state flower. The acacia, blue palo verde, foothill palo verde, brittlebush, creosote, mesquite, globe mallow and yucca are spring-flowering trees and shrubs found in the park.

Scenic drives through the park and hiking trails offer a multitude of photo opportunities. Guided tours can be arranged through the visitor's centers.

The park is divided into two districts: the Rincon Mountain District and the Tucson Mountain District. The Rincon Mountain District is located at 3693 S. Spanish Trail, 1-520-733-5153, and the Tucson Mountain District is located at 2700 N. Kinney Road, 1-520-733-5158. The park is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. A 15-minute program is offered at each center to give an overview of the park's attractions.

In May or early June, the saguaro is in full bloom. By the end of June, its fruit ripens and splits open, revealing a brilliant red pulp, which desert animals relish. Only Sonoran Desert tribes are allowed to harvest saguaro fruit within the park without special permission. These tribes are the Tohono O'odham (Papago), Akimel O'odham (Pima), Hia c-ed O'odham (Sand Papago) and Seri.


Image: The Saguaro fruit blooms in early June. NPS photo.