In 1933, the Saguaro National Park was created to protect the saguaro, other desert plants and rock formations with petroglyphs made by Native Indians long ago. The park is separated into two sections. The Rincon Mountain District is approximately 15 miles east of Tucson. The Tucson Mountain District is about 15 miles west of Tucson.
Both of these districts represent the Sonoran desert and include magnificent stands of saguaro cacti. Saguaros are unique cacti. They have also been described as the monarch of the Sonoran Desert, as a prickly horror and as the supreme symbol of the American Southwest. Saguaros grow only in southern Arizona, in California along the Colorado River and in northern Mexico. Protection is the key to the success of a saguaro. Palo Verde trees and other shade plants protect a young saguaro.
Saguaros can live up to 200 years and can reach the heights of 30 to 40 feet. They are slow growing. It takes about twenty-five years to grow, just two feet. The Saguaro arms do not appear until the cactus is 75 years old. The arms of the saguaro have caused people to call them the plant with personality. Saguaros with arms look all too human. They have white blossoms that appear in May and June. The saguaro blossom is Arizona's state flower.
The Rincon Mountain District houses the park's headquarters and is located on Freeman Road, south of Old Spanish Trail about 15 miles from Tucson. This district stretches out 66,336 acres. It also contains a visitor center with plant and animal displays. The displays include desert animal skeletons and a cross section of a saguaro. A 15-minute slide show tells about the park's plant and wildlife. There are nature programs available in the winter. Visitors can also explore the desert by taking a driving tour. The Cactus Forest Drive starts at the visitor center and continues for 8 miles through the beautiful Sonoran desert.
There are two picnic spots along the drive. If you would like more information, call 520-733-5153.The Tucson Mountain District has a visitor center filled with informative exhibits. Here you will see 20,738 acres of desert landscape. The Red Hills Visitor Center is on Kinney Road about 15 miles from Tucson just off of Speedway/Gates Pass Road. There are signs to direct you to the park. There is a driving trail that is located in the area. Before embarking on the drive, you will want to stop in at the visitor center for a map. The Bajada Loop Drives winds for 6 miles through the National Park.
There are four picnic areas available at the Tucson Mountain District. For more information, you may call, 520-733-5158. When you make your visit to either of these Districts, is it recommended you come prepared for the adventure. It is advisable to bring water, dress appropriately for the climate and plan on at least a half a day to take in the whole park. During the summer the temperatures can rise past 100 degrees, therefore the best time to plan a trip is during the winter, fall or springtime. Both districts offer bird watching, photography, hiking and guided walks. You will want to make a stop at the visitor center to find out more. Both districts in the Saguaro National Park are open every day from dawn to dusk.
The Visitor Centers are open every day from 8:30 to 5:00 pm, except on Christmas. Admission costs vary depending on which district you would like to visit. Admission to the Rincon Mountain District is by a 7-day permit or by annual permit. The 7-day permit costs $4.00 per vehicle or $2.00 for individuals arriving by other means. The Tucson Mountain District admission is free. The Saguaro National Park is a one of a kind place to visit. Please remember to leave only your footprints and take nothing but wonderful memories.
Pima is in Eastern Arizona. It is in Graham County. The town covers two square miles. The town is located on Interstate 70. Pima is approximately 134 miles from Tucson and 160 miles from Phoenix. If you are coming from Tucson, take Interstate 10 east out of town to U.S. 191 and head north toward Stafford. Once you are in Stafford, take U.S. 70 west into Pima. If you are coming from Phoenix, take U.S. 60 east out of town to Globe and then take U.S. 70 into Pima.
Pima is a becoming a retirement and tourist spot. There are so many recreational facilities located nearby that there is something fun to do for everyone. Pima began as an agricultural community. Today Pima’s population is 1,725. The town sits at an elevation of 2,885 feet. The mild climate is found all year round with a summer high temperature of 99 degrees and a winter low temperature of 30 degrees. Pima is known as “The Little Town with it All”.
One great attraction in town is the Eastern Arizona Museum and Historical Society. This museum has wonderful displays that preserve the heritage of the area. Visitors can even arrange for tours when you call in advance. Another popular hang out is the Graham County Fairgrounds and Recreational Area located in the town of Stafford. The 220-area complex has facilities for fairs, an equestrian arena, an oval race track and many public recreation spots.
These recreation areas range from tennis courts to baseball fields and 56 picnic tables. The Graham County Fairgrounds and Recreational Area is the place to be if you are interested in small town fun. Discovery Park is a fun place to go explore the past, present, and future of the desert southwest. There are 200 acres of scientific, historical and cultural exhibits including the Gov Aker Observatory and the space simulator ride called the Polaris Shuttlecraft. The Discovery Park Express narrow-gauge train takes you on a tour of Nature’s Hideaway with wildlife, flora, and fauna.
Most of the activities available around Pima are outdoor activities. There are so many to choose from its hard to decide where to start. The Swift Trail (State Highway 366) is one of Arizona’s most popular scenic drives. The drive begins just eight miles south of Safford. The trail takes you up to the top of Mount Graham in the Pinaleno Mountains. There are many spectacular sights along this drive. Columbine is a great camping area. Riggs Flat Lake has fishing and camping. However, the last section of the trail leading to the lake is closed during the winter season. Visitors will want to head to the lake in the spring and summer to enjoy the water fun.
Another lake that has lots to offer is the Lake Roper State Park. This lake is only four miles south of Safford. The park has 240 acres and 30 acres of water. Visitors will find two developed areas, which surround a small man made a lake. The park has picnicking, camping, boating and a natural hot spring. The Cluff Ranch Wildlife Area has been a popular recreational spot since the turn of the century. It lies at the base of Mount Graham and is only five miles south of Pima. Visitors can choose from fishing, camping, and photography. Wildlife can be spotted at several ponds and riparian areas located in the area. It is a wonderful spot to enjoy nature.
The Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Area is a vast wilderness. It is an area that has no trails, no facilities, and no signs. The area is for those interested in really getting in touch with the outdoors. Hikers, campers and those wanting to see wildlife will enjoy heading to the Aravaipa Canyon. The Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area is a wonderful piece of land including a 15-mile segment of Bonita Creek and 23 miles of the Gila River. This area is the perfect place to take a kayak, canoe or raft. Visitors can float down the Gila River taking in the variety of birds that make this place their home.