Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ajo Mountain Drive, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona

Organ Pipe Cactus National Park has two gravel road drives, the longer of which is the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive we did this today.  The Ajo Mountain Drive takes about two hours, not including taking two possible hikes and enjoying a picnic. We picked up the Ajo Mountain Drive Guide at the Visitor’s Center, which nicely outlines the drive with numbered stops along the way. Note – be sure you follow the numbers with the small organ pipe cactus picture – there are brown signs with number as well, which we can only surmise was connected with a previous guide numbering.

So here are some interesting things we learned today:
  • The saguaro cactus grows as high as 50’, can weigh up to several tons and can live up to 200 years. At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the cacti first flower at around 65 years of age, and their first arms begin at about 90 years of age. Since water is so scarce here, some saguaros may never have arm growth.
  • The prickly pear cactus adapts to the desert sun by keeping its pads straight up, thus avoiding the harsh noon sun.
  • The ocotillo aren’t part of the cactus family – they’re actually members of the candlewood family.
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