Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a biosphere reserve set aside to protect species endemic to the Sonoran Desert in which it resides. Beautifully preserved lands with Organ Pipe, Saguaro, Cholla, and other cacti fill the monument. This is one of the only places where Organ Pipe cacti can be found within the United States — there are more in the southern Sonoran Desert, in Mexico.

Inside the monument travellers can explore the quality vistors center, rumble along scenic dirt roads, day hike along the many trails in the park, or trek for days into the backcountry.

Climate in the monument is typical of the Sonoran Desert: hot summers and mild winters, with monsoonal thunderstorms mid-July to mid-September and a calmer winter rainy season. It gets HOT during the summer — well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit on a typical day. Keep the expected weather in mind and bring plenty of water if you plan on hiking!

The monument is located along the Arizona, USA/Sonora,Mexico border 3 hours west of Tucson or 3 hours southwest of Phoenix. To its east lies the Tohono O’otham Nation, and to its northwest the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. On the Mexican side, contiguous with Organ Pipe, lies the Pinacate and Gran Desierto Biosphere reserve. The combination of Cabeza Prieta, Organ Pipe, and Pinacate make this the first international park on the USA/Mexico border.

Due to its proximity to Mexico, the park has a heavy Border Patrol presence attempting to interdict the estimated 200,000 undocumented migrants that pass through the park each year (a number that I think must be too high). Due to this traffic the Park Service has closed many of the sightseeing dirt roads as of this writing (2005 February). In particular, Avenida de Dos Republicas, heading east and travelling just north of the border, is closed, as is the huge 5-hour Puerto Blanco loop.

Places to stay: There is a campground within the park, and RV parks in Lukeville (aka Gringo Pass) to the south, and in the towns of Why (Why not) and Ajo to the north. There are also motels in Ajo and Lukeville.

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