© 2018 by WIndow On Photography, ROIRG LLC and Larry Padgett

A Desert Full of Surprises

 

The Saguaro National Park, West is a few minutes drive from Tucson, Arizona. It's located is on the eastern limit of the immense Sonoran Desert that extends southwest into lower California, the Baja Peninsula and northern Mexico. 

Many, myself included, envision the desert as a wasteland of sand sometime punctuated by cacti and inhabited only by slithering rattlesnakes. The fastest and easiest way to dispel that belief is through a visit to the Saguaro National Park headquarters and interpretive center. There the park provides a very informative video introduction to the history of the region, with an unusual and impactful conclusion.

During the 90-minute walking tour across the road from the headquarters, you get a real sense of what it takes for plants and animals to survive, coexist and thrive in a very harsh environment. As you might expect, the dominant Saguaro cacti play a significant role the lifecycle of many birds and mammals. The Gila woodpeckers make their nests in the Saguaros, which are often behind the round holes seen in the cacti. They abandon the nest at the end of one season, after which their nest becomes a new home for a variety of birds.

Just a couple facts about the Saguaro cactus giants: They live to be 150 to 175 years old, sometimes 200 years, during which time they may or may not sprout arms. No one seems to know why some do and some don't. If they do, the buds begin to appear when a cactus is 50 to 70 years old. A Saguaro may reach 50 feet and weigh in at 6 tons! You can find photos here.

My thanks to Bob Perrill for his very informative introduction to the Sonoran desert.

Many, myself included, envision the desert as a wasteland of sand sometime punctuated by cacti and inhabited only by slithering rattlesnakes.

 

The fastest and easiest way to dispel that belief is a visit to the Saguaro National Park headquarters and interpretive center. There the park provides a very informative video introduction to the history of the region, with an unusual and impactful conclusion.

Naturalists offer guided tours into the surrounding desert. This is your ticket to being introduced to the the very alive and fascinating desert world.

 

Our guide, Bob, had extensive knowledge of the Saguaro and other cacti, local birds, tarantulas, and numerous other aspects of the region's ecosystem.