by Alex Gugel , all rights reserved
Organ Pipe Cactus
Visitor Guide to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (NM) in Arizona. Published by the National Park Service (NPS).
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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior December 2017 - November 2018 Visitor Guide A True Desert Experience Awaits WH E T H E R YOU A R E H E R E F OR T WO HOU R S OR T WO weeks, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the monument. Any trip should start at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. A fifteen minute movie, exhibits, and park rangers are available to answer your questions. Welcome No matter how long your stay, there are many treasures awaiting your discovery. Take the time to explore the spirit and secrets of the park. The variety of plants and animals found in the desert is astounding. I hope you will take advantage of our exhibits and ranger programs and learn about the fascinating ways that plants and animals have adapted to living in the Sonoran Desert. 2 Hours or less: • • • Stop by the Kris Eggle Visitor Center, watch the 15 minute film, explore the exhibit hall, and stroll the nature trail. Drive the North Puerto Blanco Drive to the Pinkley Peak Picnic Area (10 miles round-trip) for great views of the desert and cacti. Do a short hike near the campground. Camping, hiking, birding, photography, exploring – the list of ways to enjoy and understand Organ Pipe Cactus’s natural beauty and history is unlimited. Experience your America, make Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument your own special place, and have a safe and memorable visit. 2-4 Hours: • Tour the Ajo Mountain Scenic Loop, a 21 mile round-trip graded dirt road. Be sure to pick up a free road guide at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. • Take a moderate hike in the Senita Basin area. • Attend a ranger led hike or location talk. • Visit Quitobaquito Springs. All Day: • • • • A visit to Organ Pipe Cactus can begin a lifetime of experiences enjoying your national parks. As we begin the next 100 years of preservation and stewardship, we invite you to Find Your Park, no matter where that may be, and to be inspired by all of these special places. Drive the Puerto Blanco Scenic loop. This trip will take 4-6 hours, and a high clearance 4WD vehicle is required. Explore the Ajo Mountain Scenic Drive and hike the Bull Pasture/Estes Canyon Loop Trail. Visit Quitobaquito Springs. Join a Ranger for a guided van tour. One day not enough? Stay the night at Organ Pipe Cactus and experience the calmness of the desert after dark. Camping is available at Twin Peaks Campground. Primitive and backcountry camping is also available. During day or night, the Sonoran Desert beckons to be explored. Take one of the many scenic drives at different times of the day to see the interplay of sun and shadow across the landscape. Inside: Services / Special Programs ........................2 Hiking & Camping Guide ........................6,7 Night Skies ............................................ 11 Ranger Programs/ Hiker Shuttles ..............3 Plant Information .......................................8 Map of Monument ....................................12 Scenic Drives ..............................................4 Flower Guide...............................................9 Adventure Guide & Safety ..........................5 Bird Guide ................................................ 10 2 National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Protecting 516 square miles of Sonoran Desert, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a sanctuary for diverse species, some endangered. The park was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 and has since been recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations. Over 95 percent of Organ Pipe Cactus is designated Wilderness. Come explore the wonders and the wild of the Sonoran Desert! Superintendent Mailing Address Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument 10 Organ Pipe Drive Ajo, AZ 85321-9626 Phone 520-387-6849 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Web site http://www.nps.gov/orpi Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ OrganPipeNPS The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage. Information and Services Accessibility Emergencies For 24-hour emergency response, call 911. The closest medical clinic is the Desert Senita Community Health Center in Ajo, 520387-5651. The closest hospitals are in Phoenix and Tucson. Visitor Center The Kris Eggle Visitor Center, restrooms, and 1⁄10-mile nature trail are fully accessible, Certain ranger programs are accessible. Ask for an accessibility brochure at the Visitor Center. Lost and Found Contact the Kris Eggle Visitor Center at 520-387-6849 ext. 7302. Firearms As of Feb. 22, 2010, fires are permitted only federal law allows people in campground fire grills who can legally possess using pressed logs, charcoal, firearms under federal, or firewood. Wood fires Arizona and local laws to are prohibited at Alamo possess firearms in Organ Campground. Gathering dead Pipe Cactus National or down wood is prohibited. Monument. It is the visitor’s responsibility to understand and comply with state, The Association is our local, and federal firearms • Free with Interagency partner and operator of the laws. Federal law prohibits Annual passes. park bookstore, located in the firearms in certain facilities • Free with Golden Age, visitor center lobby. It sells within the monument. Senior, and Access educational books, post cards, These are identified by lifetime passes. local arts, and cultural items. signs at public entrances. If you have questions, • Fees subject to change in Internet Access please contact the Arizona 2018. Free public wifi is available Department of Public at the Kris Eggle Visitor Pets Safety at (800) 256-6280 or Center. After-hours, visitors Pets must be on a leash at all visit their website http:// can access the wireless from times. Pets are allowed on www.azdps.gov/Services/ roads, in campgrounds, picnic outside the building. Concealed_Weapons/. areas, the Palo Verde, and Campground Perimeter trails. • The Kris Eggle Visitor Center is open daily 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. except Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is a 15 minute film, short accessible nature trail, exhibits and park store. Ranger led talks, tours and hikes are oﬀered December through March. Entrance Fees Fires At Twin Peaks Campground $12 per vehicle, $4 per pedestrian or bicyclist. Good for seven days. Western National Parks Association Nearby Attractions Cabeza Prieta National Wildife Refuge Bordering Organ Pipe Cactus to the west , this refuge preserves a vast wilderness and many important species. (520)-387-6483 Tohono O’odham National Museum and Cultural Center Learn and explore the vibrant history and culture of the Tohono O’odham. (520) 383- 0201 El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Located in Sonora, Mexico, Organ Pipe Cactus’ sister park preserves an amazing ecosystem marked by large extinct volcanoes. 01 (638) 384-9007 Saguaro National Park Just outside of Tucson, Arizona, Saguaro National Park protects impressive stands of desert plants and mountain ranges. (520) 733-5153 Special Programs (January through March) Special educational and recreational opporunities for the public are oﬀered throughout the season. Check with a ranger, on a bulletin board, or at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center for more information. Programs are subject to change and cancellation. All programs take place at the visitor center unless otherwise noted. Star Parties: Explore the night sky with park rangers. Parties will include a short program, followed by night sky viewing through a variety of devices, inlcuding telescopes. January 16, February 16, March 17 Explore the Night Sky Moonlight Hikes: Hike the Desert View Trail with a Ranger by the light of the moon. Dress warmly, wear sturdy shoes, and bring a flashlight and water. Limited to 25 hikers. Sign up for a hike at the visitor center . January ............1-2, 30-31 February ...................... 28 March ....................... 1, 30 Lecture Series: Border Patrol 101: Chief Talks: 2 pm Second Wednesdays of the month. 1 hour 2 pm January 24 and first and third Wednesdays of Feburary and March. 45 minutes 11:00am First and third Thursdays of the month. 20 minutes Speakers include biologists, archaeologists, rangers and other specialists who delve more deeply into subjects tied to Organ Pipe Cactus. Join agents from the U.S. Border Patrol in the Kris Eggle Visitor Center Auditorium to explore their role and mission. Meet members of the Monument’s management team and learn about how diﬀerent divisions in the park work towards a common goal. Occasionally during the winter months, park rangers and volunteers will have telescopes set up in the Twin Peaks Campground. Check bulletin boards for dates and times. 3 Ranger-Led Programs (January through March) Please check park bulletin boards or call the visitor center at (520) 387-6849 x7302 for more information. Bring sunscreen, water, and snacks to all outdoor programs. Van spots may be reserved by calling the visitor center up to seven days in advance. Children must be accompanied by parents. Programs and shuttles are oﬀered from mid-December through early April unless otherwise noted. Programs may be cancelled due to inclement weather and staﬀ availability. Sunday 9:00am 3 hrs Ajo Mountain Van Tour: Reservations Required Enjoy a unique three hour experience on a ranger led van tour of the scenic Ajo Mountain Drive. Several stops will provide an intimate look at the monument. Seating limited to 10. 11:00am 20 min Patio Talk: Meet on the back patio of the Kris Eggle Visitor Center for a short ranger-led presentation. Topics vary, check bulletin boards. 1:30pm 1 hr 1:30pm 45 min Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Location Talk- Quitobaquito Spring: Join a ranger at this gorgeous desert oasis and learn about the unique animals and its rich cultural history. Meet ranger at Quitobaquito or reserve a spot in a van - seating limited to 11. Van departs at 12:45pm. Begins January 2018 Location Talk- Blankenship Well: Join a ranger at Blankenship Well (Dos Lomitas) to explore the historic ranch stead from the early twentieth century. Meet ranger at Dos Lomitas or reserve a spot in the van - seating is limited to 11 passangers. Van departs at 1:00pm. Begins January 2018 2:00pm 20 min Patio Talk: Meet on the back patio of the Kris Eggle Visitor Center for a short ranger-led presentation. Topics vary, check bulletin boards. 3:30pm 20 min Patio Talk: Meet on the back patio of the Kris Eggle Visitor Center for a short ranger-led presentation. Topics vary, check bulletin boards for topics. 7:00pm 45 min Evening Program: End your evening with a traditional ranger program. Presentations cover a variety of topics, including natural and cultural history. Check at bulletin boards for topics. Begins January 2018 Varies 45 min Night Sky Program: Join a Nigth Sky Ranger to view and explor the night skies over the monument. Check program schedule for times and location. Night sky programs replace Evening Programs for that day. Begins January 2018 Hiker Shuttles (January through March) Free hiker shuttles depart from the information kiosk at the Twin Peaks Campground. Call the Kris Eggle Visitor Center at (520) 387-6849 x7302 or register in person to reserve a spot. Shuttles are one way transportation and allow visitors to hike back to the campground. Seating is limited to 13. Sunday 8:30am Senita Basin Trailhead: Access the Puerto Blanco trails from the south. Experience the diversity of Senita Basin and see the senita, saguaro and organ pipe cacti together. 4.6 mile hike back to the campground. Begins January 2018 8:30am Red Tanks Tinaja Trailhead: Access the Puerto Blanco trails from the north. Trail gains slight elevation and oﬀers great views of the desert. 6.7 mile hike back to the campground. Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday 4 Scenic Drives There are a number of scenic dirt roads that can take you into the heart of the Sonoran Desert. Roads have varying degrees of diﬃculty, and oﬀer great experiences for visitors in all kinds of vehicles. Bring plenty of water and food for long full day drives. Always obey posted speed limits. Be mindful that some roads are two-way, and other vehicles might be approaching. All scenic drives have a speed limit of 25 mph unless otherwise posted. Easy - passenger cars Ajo Mountain Loop: 21 mi (34 km) 2 hours round-trip. This scenic loop crosses the Diablo Mountains to the base of the Ajo Mountains and returns through Sonoyta Valley. Along the way there are dense concentrations of saguaro and organ pipe cactus. Picnic tables and hiking trails are accessible along this route. A free interpretive guide is available at the visitor center. Route begins across Highway 85 from the visitor center entrance. North Puerto Blanco to Pinkley Peak: 10 mi (16 km) 45 minutes round-trip This road has scenic views of mountains and dense concentrations of saguaro cactus. At the turnaround there is a picnic area with views of the Valley of the Ajo and Pinkley Peak. The road continues as a rugged one-way loop recommended for high clearance vehicles only. Ajo Mountain Drive South Puerto Blanco to Quitobaquito: 28 mi (45 km) 3 hours round-trip This drive parallels the international border for several miles, and provides access to Quitobaquito Spring, an oasis in the middle of the desert. Great examples of organ pipe, senita, and saguaro cactus can be seen. The road can be washboarded- slow down and allow extra time. South Puerto Blanco to Senita Basin Trailhead: 7 mi (11.2 km) 2 hours round-trip from Hwy 85 This drive oﬀers the quickest access to the Senita Basin trailhead. Here, you will see the greatest concentration of senita cactus in the Monument. Kino Peak can be seen from the road. A large network of hiking trails can be accessed from this point. The road can be washboarded - slow down and allow extra time. Quitobaquito Pond Camino de Dos Republicas: 9.6 mi (14 km) 1 hour round-trip from Hwy 85 Starting from Hwy 85, the road is rough as it crosses several washes. First you will encoutner the Gachado line-shack just before the junction of the Roosevelt Easement Road. The road will then parallel the international border to the ranch buildings at Dos Lomitas. The road is closed to the public beyond this point. Medium - high clearance North Puerto Blanco Drive North Puerto Blanco - South Puerto Blanco Loop: 41 mi (66 km) 4 to 5 hours round-trip This scenic drive provides the greatest variety of plants and vistas in the Monument. It is a rugged route with few facilities. The road provides access to several trailheads as well as historic sites. Quitobaquito is accessible from this loop. There are picnic tables and vault toilets along the route. Bates Well Road to Cabeza Prieta Wildlife Refuge: 26 mi (41.8 km) 2 hours one-way Starting from Hwy 85 north of the monument, this road will provide access to Bates Well Ranch (17 mi, 27 km) and the Pozo Nuevo Rd (23 mi, 37 km) before reaching the monument boundary. Highlights include the Bates Well Ranch site and access to the El Camino de Diablo in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Bates Well Ranch Hard - high clearance and 4x4 Pozo Nuevo Road: 7 mi (11.2 km) 2 hours one-way from either start of the road. This rugged road in the western portion of the Monument connects the South Puerto Blanco Drive to the Bates Well Road. This route oﬀers great views of the Cipriano Hills, the Growler Valley, and the historic Pozo Nuevo line-camp. Ranch House at Blankenship Well 5 Bikes, Horses, and More- Your Guide to Adventure Equestrian Trails Equestrian use is welcome at Organ Pipe Cactus within designated Wilderness areas. Horses are also allowed on certain developed trails in the Monument. Refer to pages 6 and 7 and look for the horse symbol to find your trail. Remember: • Horses must only be fed certified weed-free hay, and digestion systems must be purged. • Water is scarce, plan ahead • Horse camping is available at Twin Peaks Campground by reservation. Bicycles Hike For Health Challenge The winding roads of Organ Pipe Cactus provide great opportunities to explore the desert on bicycle. All vehicle roads in the monument are open for bicycles. Please follow all road laws, obey speed limits, and move to the side of the road to allow vehicles to pass. Please prepare there is no water available along any of the routes carry enough for your needs. Explore the beautiful trails and get some exercise. Organ Pipe Cactus invites you to hike for health and challenges you to hike at least 5 miles during your visit. Stop by the Kris Eggle Visitor Center for more information on how to earn your reward. Popular Routes: Ajo Mountain Loop: 21 mile (33 km) improved gravel road, 1,000 feet elevation change over the route. Restrooms are located halfway at Estes Canyon trailhead. Consider the weather and temperature before hiking. Look for other hiking challenges across the National Park Service. North Puerto Blanco Drive to Pinkley Peak: 10 miles (16 km) round trip along a winding road. Slight elevation change along the washes. Restrooms are located at Pinkley Peak Picnic Area. South Puerto Blanco Drive: 28 miles (45km) roundtrip. Road is wash-boarded for the first 3 miles. No facilities. Note: Ninty-five percent of the monument is a designated Wilderness. Bicycles are not permitted. Please stay on the roads. For Your Safety Every year, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument receives visitors from around the world. They come to see this Biosphere Reserve, an unparalleled portion of the Sonoran Desert. In addition to these visitors, others come as well. The 31-mile southern boundary of the Monument is the border between the United States and Mexico. You should not provide water or food as they may continue further into the desert and become distressed, needing assistance in an area where there is no help available. People do cross the border, but National Park visitors are unlikely to encounter illegal activity in the Monument. Migrants and smugglers want to evade detection and therefore try to avoid contact with other people. In rare instances when migrants or smugglers approach a visitor it is usually because they are lost, need water, or are in medical distress. In reality, the biggest hazards for visitors are not other people but the desert environment. The monument encompasses 516 square miles of the Sonoran Desert, much of it rugged mountains with the remainder being arid scrublands with little or no water. Water found here is not potable without treatment and is the only source of water for wildlife. When hiking or camping in the wilderness you should carry suﬃcient water for twice the amount of time you plan to be in the wilderness. You can reduce your likelihood of encountering illegal activity by avoiding unoﬃcial hiking trails. Be aware of your surroundings. Report suspicious activity or people to a ranger, or call 911 if your phone has a signal. When parked, secure your vehicle and keep valuables, water, and food out of sight. Be aware and respectful of wildlife. Some animals can be dangerous if cornered or handled. Harassing, handling, or posing with animals is illegal and can put you and the wildlife at risk of injury. Some animals are venomous - do not put your hands where you cannot see them. If you should encounter someone or a group traveling cross-country with backpacks, bundles, or black water bottles, do not make contact. If driving, continue to drive and call for help without inviting strangers into your vehicle. If you are hiking move away from them to avoid contact. Over the years, millions of people have come to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and have left with good memories. Follow these safety guidelines, to assure that your visit will be memorable too. For the right reasons. Key Points for Desert Safety • Carry and drink plenty of water - one gallon per person per day is recommended. • Sun protection is important. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing. • Desert vegetation is spiney, avoid contact. • Flash floods occur quickly and are dangerous. Avoid washes when rain is threatening. • Never enter a flooded roadway. Wait for the water to subside and it is safe to cross. • Do not put your hands or feet anywhere you cannot see. Snakes, scorpions,and spiders often hide in these areas. • Africanized bees inhabit many areas of the monument. Leave areas with large concentrations, and do not swat or kill them. • Hike with a partner. Let someone know where you are going, when you plan to return, and who to contact if you are overdue. 6 Your Hiking and Camping Guide Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument oﬀers dozens of miles of hiking trails to help you explore the Sonoran Desert. The following is for trip planning only; please use a map or trail guide for your trip. Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen. Know your own limitations when planning a desert hike. Certain trails are open to horse use; hikers must yield to horses. Take part in the Hike for Health Challenge, see page 5 for more information. Sign up for a hiker shuttle (pg 3) and hike a trail back to the campground. Visitor Center and Campground Trails Use the map on the back of the newspaper for these easy, yet rewarding hikes. All hikes are accessible from either the Twin Peaks Campground or the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. Visitor Center Nature Trail: 0.10 mi (0.16 km) 10 minutes one-way. Easy brick path from the visitor center with interpretive information. See diﬀerent cactus up close and the pupfish pond. Accessible to wheelchairs and scooters. Pets allowed on a leash when entering from parking lot. Campground Perimeter Trail 1 mi (1.6 km) 30 minutes one-way. Easy loop trail around Twin Peaks Campground. Oﬀers great views of the desert flats and various cacti. Palo Verde Trail 2.6 mi (4.2 km) 1.5 hours round-trip. Easy trail between Twin Peaks Campground and Kris Eggle Visitor Center with great views of the Ajo Mountain Range. Desert View Trail: 1.2 mi (1.9 km) 1 hour round-trip. Head out and explore the many trails of the Monument. Easy loop trail with beautiful views, impressive stands of organ pipe cactus, and great for sunrise and sunset. Ajo Mountains Trails Old Pima County Road: 8 mi (12.8km) one way. 4.5 hours one-way. This is an easy trail that follows the old county road which was later abandonded after AZ Highway 85 was built. The trail meanders through several washes and provides great views of Pinkley Peak and great up-close encounters with a variety of cactus. Alamo Canyon: 1.8 mi (1.7 km) 1 hour round-trip. Easy trail that follows an old dirt road to a historic ranch house and corral. Trail follows an impressive wash that is great for birding. Arch Canyon: 1.2 mi (1.9 km) 1 hour round-trip. Easy trail that steadily climbs into Arch Canyon’s riparian vegetation. Good views of the arch from the parking area. Great birding opportunities. Bull Pasture: 3 mi (4.8 km) 1-2 hours out and back. Diﬃcult trail with steep grade and exposed cliﬀs. Spectacular views of the Monument and Mexico. Estes Canyon: Distance and time varies with route choices 1-3 hours round-trip. Trailhead to Bull Pasture Junction and back. 3.2mi (5.1km) Trailhead to junction returning on Bull Pasture trail. 2.6mi (4.2km) Trailhead to Bull Pasture summit returning on Bull Pasture trail. 3.6mi (5.8km) Moderate trail is great for birding. The trail crosses several washes but is relatively flat until the switchback climb to the Bull Pasture trail junction. 7 Puerto Blanco Mountains Trails Victoria Mine: 4.4 mi (7.2 km) 3.5 hours round-trip. Easy trail that will cross several washes on the way to Victoria Mine, home of one of the oldest historic sites on the Monument. The mineshaft and ruins of the old mine store remain. Lost Cabin Mine Trail 8 mi (12.8 km) 4.5 hours round-trip. This is a moderate trail that follows an old mining road. The trail is primitive, but provides great views of the Sonoyta Mountains to the south. Trail ends at the ruins of the old stone mining house, and several prospecting holes can be seen. Senita Basin Loop: 2.9 mi (4.6 km) 1 hour round-trip. Easy loop trail that meanders through an impressive grove of the rare senita cactus with great views of the Puerto Blanco Mountains. Milton Mine: 3.2 mi (5.1 km) 1-2 hours round-trip. Easy trail that leads to a mine operated by legendary Arizona lawman, Jeﬀ Milton. Trail provides great views for sunset. Red Tanks Tinaja: 1.6 mi (2.6 km) 1.5 hours round-trip. Moderate trail which leads to a natural water collecting basin carved into the bedrock by erosion. Do not drink the water. Dripping Springs: 1 mi (1.6 km) 1 hour round-trip. Easy trail to Dripping Springs, one of the few natural water sources in the area. Do not drink the water. Wildife can be abundant in the area. Trail to the ridgeline is diﬃcult. Dripping Springs Mine: 2.8 mi (4.5 km) 1-2 hours round-trip. Moderate trail to a historic mine site used by bootleggers during Prohibition. Trail oﬀers commanding views of the Saguaro lined horizion. Many trails can be combined into loop hikes of various lengths and diﬃculties. Rangers can help plan additional hiking opportunities. Camping There are a number of camping opportunities at the Monument: Check our website or call the Kris Eggle Visitor Center for camping and/or reservation information. Twin Peaks Campground is a developed 208-space campground near the visitor center with RV sites up to 40 ft. and a designated tent section. There are 34 tent sites and 174 RV sites, six rest rooms, three with solar showers and a dump station with potable water located at the south end of the campground. There are several potable water faucets on each row. There are no electrical or water hookups at the campsites. Register at the visitor center, campground kiosk, or self-register at kiosk after business hours. Open all year. Fee: $16 per night or $8 for holders of Golden Age/Access/Senior Passes. Call in advance for vehicles over 40 feet in length. Generator hours vary by season check with park staﬀ or at bulletin boards for details. If you are en route and concerned about site availability, please call the visitor center. Fees subject to change in 2018. Alamo Campground is a four space primitive campground with a maximum occupancy of five people per site per night. Sites are for tents, camper vans, and pickup campers only. There is a single vault toilet on site, but no water. Camping is first come, first served; self-registration occurs at the campground. Being a remote campground, the visitor center only has limited information on availability. Open all year. Fee $10 per night or $5 with a Golden Age/Access/Senior Pass. Group camping is available by reservation only; please call the Kris Eggle Visitor Center for more information. 520-387-6849 ext 7302 Backcountry camping is available in select areas of the Monument; you must register at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center to get a camping permit. $5 per permit. Ground fires are not permitted anywhere in the monument. 8 Organ Pipe Cactus: Fun Facts Creatures of the Sonoran Desert feast on the juicy fruit and disperse the seeds across the desert. Average height at maturity is 15 feet. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is the only place in the United States where you can see large stands of organ pipe cacti growing naturally. Just before and during the summer rains, the organ pipe fruit ripens and splits open to reveal its red pulpy flesh. Early settlers who encountered dead cacti were reminded of church pipe organs and called these cacti organ pipes. Columnar cacti such as the organ pipe and saguaro can form these unusual growths called “cristates.” An organ pipe cactus produces its first flowers at around 35 years. The bat pollinated flowers blossom at night and are closed by mid-morning the next day. Organ pipe cactus may live 150 years. Ocotillo- It’s not a cactus? Depending on when it last rained, the ocotillo may look like either a bundle of sticks in the ground, or a burst of green fireworks with vermillion tips when blooming. It has long sharp spines that cause some to think it must be a cactus. In reality, it is a shrub from the candlewood family, common to the Chihuahuan, Sonoran, and lower Mojave deserts of the U.S. and Mexico. Ocotillo in leaf Ocotillo seems to defy our common idea of “shrub.” From a distance, the plant looks dead. A closer look may reveal bits of green in a very woody, rough-textured bark. That indicates the plant is alive. Look even more closely and you will see the small circles on top of the base of the thorns and the place where leaves form. Most of the time the shrub is leafless and dormant, waiting for rain. These flowers are magnets for migrating and resident hummingbirds, orioles, pollinating insects, and other nectar-lovers. Once the soil dries and the ocotillo finishes blooming, the plant has used its last spurt of rain-induced energy; the leaves turn yellow to red - a hint of autumn in the summer. When rain comes, as either gentle soaking rain of winter or thunderstorms in summer, it will trigger an amazing transformation. Within 48 hours, the stems turn greener, and new leaf buds appear. A few days later, the ocotillo will be hiding thorns under a luxurious coat of green leaves. If you are fortunate and Ocotillo flowers and buds visit Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument from late February through early April, you may see clusters of vermillion flowers atop those wavy stems. Dormant ocotillo 9 Flower Guide When Does the Sonoran Desert Bloom? If you are lucky, you may see the desert carpeted in flowers. After heavy winter rains, plants burst into bloom, some flowering only days after receiving water. Other plants wait patiently for the summer rains to come. Sonoran Desert wildflowers grow quickly and in large numbers after it rains. Once the soil dries, plants die back. Desert wildflowers are not only beautiful, but they are essential to the survival of many desert creatures. Mexican gold poppy Mojave lupine Fairy duster Desert marigold Saguaro cactus Teddy Bear Cholla How do you say that? Ajo: AH-ho. Spanish for garlic; also a Tohono O’odham word for a copper-colored pigment. Bajada: ba-HAH-dah. The gravely slope at the base of a mountain range. Many diverse species take advantage of the bajadas’ well drained soil. They are good places to look for wildlife. Cholla: CHOY-yuh. A group of cacti known for painful spines and easily detachable, jointed branches. Also called “jumping cactus.” Pincushion cactus Prickly pear cactus Compass Barrel Cactus Gila: HEE-lah. As in Gila monster, Gila woodpecker and Gila River. Ocotillo: OH-koh-TEE-yo. A very thorny plant, often mistaken for a cactus. The ocotillo has the ability to sprout leaves within 48 hours of rain. Saguaro: sa-WA-roh. Arizona’s tallest cactus (growing to over 70 feet - usually 45 to 50 feet) and a major indicator species for the health of the Sonoran Desert. 10 Birding: The Sonoran is a vibrant desert. Every season of the year, one can find a diversity of birds flitting amongst the cholla, soaring above the Ajo Mountains, or sitting atop saguaro cacti. There have been more than 270 birds documented at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. There are many birds here during diﬀerent times of the year. Phainopeplas are a common sight in the winter, with their glistening black plumage and rakish crest. The cactus wren, the state bird of Arizona, builds its nests in the safety of cholla cactus. The Gambel’s quail is almost comical as it dashes quickly through the underbrush of the desert, its thick dark plume dancing with each motion of its head. Many birds, including a number of flycatchers, are migrants stopping in on their way north in the spring or south in the fall. Vagrants are bird