Organ Pipe Cactus
National Monument
Arizona
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A Desert Full of Life

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a showcase for the Sonoran Desert and its many plants and animals. Desert dwellers here must live in extreme temperatures, intense sun, and little rainfall. Cacti are the most recognizable plants; 28 cactus species live here, including saguaro and organ pipe.

The organ pipe is a large cactus rarely found in the United States, although it is common in Mexico. The monument protects the bulk of its U.S. range. Like its fellow cacti and other desert inhabitants, the organ pipe is attuned to rhythms of the sun and infrequent rains. A glutton for heat and light, it grows on warmer slopes where it can absorb the most sun. This is critical in winter months when severe frosts can kill the cactus. It blooms in the heat of May, June, and July, opening lavender-white flowers after the sun sets. Other cacti bloom at night, too, but many also bloom during the day, exposing their flowers to the sun. Day or night, the summer display of cactus blooms is one of the desert's flashiest spectacles, as yellow, red, white, and pink flowers color the landscape. It is a show upstaged only by explosions of gold poppies, blue lupines, pink owl clover, and other annuals after a wet winter.

Less conspicuous than plants are the desert animals. Many, including elf owls, kangaroo rats, jackrabbits, and most snakes are creatures of the night. During the day they hide in cactus holes, underground burrows, or other cool and shaded spots. Other animals, like bighorn sheep and most birds and lizards, prefer daylight to darkness. But these animals also seek mid-day shade, especially in summer when air temperatures can reach 118°F and ground temperatures can soar to a scorching 175°. Coyotes and javelinas are even more adaptable, active at any time of day or night that is not too hot.

To deal with the lack of water, desert animals must conserve body moisture. For example, the kangaroo rat ordinarily drinks no water and eats mostly dry food. It gets enough moisture from even the driest seeds. But its survival depends primarily on reducing water loss. The kangaroo rat's urine is highly concentrated, and its feces are almost completely dry. Through its nose the kangaroo rat even reclaims water otherwise lost in breathing.

Like other desert dwellers, humans have had to adapt or suffer the consequences. Prehistoric nomads relied on scarce springs and seeps. Later desert wanderers—Spanish explorers, missionaries, and others—sometimes entered this unforgiving environment unprepared. Many followed an almost waterless route called El Camino del Diablo——he Devil's Highway—as they headed west. Some did not finish their journey. In the early 1900s ranchers and miners found and developed new water sources, allowing more people to live in this region. Today, as before, visitors learn quickly about thirst, heat, cactus, and other dangers, and find ways to safely enjoy the desert on its own terms.

As a protected area, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument allows the Sonoran Desert life to flourish under nearly ideal wilderness conditions. In this outstanding natural preserve one of Earth's major ecosystems survives almost unspoiled. Recognizing its significance, in 1976 the United Nations designated the monument as an International Biosphere Reserve. Scientific research, including studies of human impact, continues to provide invaluable information for protecting this showcase of the Sonoran Desert.

Welcome to a Green Desert

Two plant communities merge here—the Lower Colorado Valley and Arizona Upland communities. Local topography, soil, and climate determine where each grows best. In the Lower Colorado Valley Community plants have adapted to some of North America's hottest, driest climates. Widely spaced shrubs dominate miles of scenery. The Arizona Upland Community grows in wetter areas and looks rich and varied in comparison.

Some members of both communities reach their northern limits in this area. For example, organ pipe cactus, senita cactus, elephant tree, and limberbush are more typical of communities in Mexico.

Federal law prohibits collecting or disturbing plants, wildlife, rocks, or artifacts.

LOWER COLORADO VALLEY COMMUNITY
Hottest, driest part of the Sonoran Desert.

Creosote Bush/Bursage Creosote bush and bursage cover most of the valley. Mesquite and big galleta grow along washes.

Mixed Scrub Brittlebush, bursage, and foothills palo verde grow on dry volcanic slopes.

Saltbush Plants that tolerate silty, salty soil—primarily saltbush—inhabit the floodplain.

ARIZONA UPLAND COMMUNITY
Wetter part of the Sonoran Desert.

Mixed Cactus/Palo Verde Organ pipe, saguaro, prickly pear, and cholla thrive on gravelly bajadas and rocky slopes. The dominant tree is palo verde.

Jojoba/Evergreen Scrubland Jojoba, agave, rosewood, and juniper grow where rainfall is most abundant—in the canyons and higher elevations of the Ajo Range.

Exploring a Desert Landscape

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument celebrates the life and landscape of the Sonoran Desert. In this wilderness of plants, animals, and dramatic mountains-and-plains scenery, you can drive a lonely road, hike a trail, camp under a clear sky, or just soak in the warmth and beauty of the Southwest.

Planning Your Visit
Kris Eggle Visitor Center has general information, accessibility information, publications, maps, exhibits, and video presentations. Talks, guided walks, and other programs are available in winter. Scenic drives and hiking trails are nearby. Between October and April expect sunny days in the 60s and 70s°F and occasional light rain. May through September days often exceed 105°F, and brief, violent thunderstorms occur. Nights are much cooler than days year-round.

Scenic Drives
Two scenic drives penetrate desert country. Both are winding, up-and-down graded dirt roads. Most passenger cars handle these roads easily. If driving anything larger or pulling a trailer, check with a ranger before attempting either drive. Carry emergency tools, take drinking water and extra water for your vehicle, avoid flooded areas, and never drive off the road.

• Ajo Mountain Drive (21 miles; 2 hours) Winds along the foothills of the Ajo Range. Desert landscapes and stands of organ pipe cactus highlight this tour. Ask for English, Spanish, or German guidebooks at the visitor center.

• North Puerto Blanco Drive (10 miles; 1 to 1½ hours) Enjoy a spectacular view of the Valley of the Ajo and see the Sonoran Desert's biodiversity. Organ pipe and saguaro cacti and ironwood trees abound. Picnic area at turnaround.

Walks and Hikes
Trails offer close looks at the desert's beauty. The best hiking months are October through April. Leashed pets are allowed on two trails. Otherwise, pets are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry. When hiking, take one gallon of water per person per day. Avoid overexertion and overexposure to the sun. Watch for desert plants with spines and thorns. At night use a flashlight and watch for rattlesnakes. Do not harm them; snakes are protected here. If you want to hike crosscountry, discuss your plans with a ranger.

• Visitor Center Trail (0.15 mile round-trip) Introduces the desert and its inhabitants. Level, paved trail is accessible to scooters and wheelchairs.

• Campground Perimeter Trail (1 mile round-trip) An ideal leisurely walk to start or end your day. Pets permitted.

• Desert View Trail (1.2 miles round-trip) Circular route leads to vistas of Sonoyta Valley and the pink granite Cubabi Mountains in Mexico. Trailside signs describe features.

• Palo Verde Trail (2.6 miles round-trip) Connects the campground and visitor center. Views of the Ajo Range. Pets permitted.

• Estes Canyon-Bull Pasture Trails (4.2 miles round-trip) Strenuous climb to a high plateau with views.

• Victoria Mine Trail (4.5 miles round-trip) Trail over rolling terrain leads to historic silver mine.

More information about hiking trails at Kris Eggle Visitor Center.

Camping and Picnicking
• Twin Peaks Campground Open all year, first-come, first-served. Water, restrooms, showers, grills, tables, dump station, and amphitheater. Fires only in grills; wood gathering prohibited.

• Alamo Canyon Campground Primitive; requires permit from Kris Eggle Visitor Center. Tents, truck campers, and small vans only. Trailers, RVs, and generators prohibited. No wood fires.

• Picnic areas At the visitor center and on the scenic drives. Most have tables, some have pit toilets and shade. Water only at visitor center picnic area.

Area Lodging and Services
Lukeville has food, gas, and post office. Why has food, gas, convenience stores, and RV parks. Ajo, Arizona, and Sonoyta, Mexico, have motels, food, gas, RV parks, laundries, and services.

For Your Safety
Organ Pipe Cactus shares 33 miles of international border with Mexico, which presents challenges and concerns. Your safety is your responsibility. • Always be aware of your surroundings. • Lock your unoccupied vehicle and keep valuables out of sight. • Hike with a partner. • Report unusual or suspicious incidents. • For firearms regulations see the park website www.nps.gov/orpi.

Emergencies: call 911 on the campground phone or contact a park ranger.

Visiting Mexico
U.S. Customs officials in Lukeville can help you with tourist cards, car permits and insurance, and information about traveling to Mexico.

Source: NPS Brochure (2011)


Establishment

Organ Pipe Wilderness — November 10, 1978
International Biosphere Reserve — October 26, 1976
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument — April 13, 1937


For More Information
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Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards expand section

Documents

A Checklist of the Birds of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Kathleen Groshupf, Bryan T. Brown, R. Roy Johnson, 1999)

A Descriptive Analysis of Woody Riparian Vegetation at Quitobaquito Springs Oasis, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 19 (Bryan T. Brown and Peter L. Warren, August 1986)

A History of the Quitobaquito Resource Management Area, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 26 (Peter S. Bennett and Michel R. Kunzmann, October 1989)

A Preliminary Investigation of the Arthropod Fauna of Quitobaquito Springs Area, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 23 (Kennth J. Kingsley, Richard A. Bailowitz and Robert L. Smith, July 1987)

A Vertebrate Faunal Survey of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (Laurence M. Huey, extract from Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History, Vol. IX No. 32, February 17, 1942)

Acoustical Monitoring 2009: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument NPS Natural Resource Technical Report NPS/NRSS/NRTR—2012/520 (Katy Warner, January 2012)

Amphibians and Reptiles of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (undated)

A Preliminary Investigation of the Arthropod Fauna of Quitobaquito Springs Area, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 23 (Kennth J. Kingsley, Richard A. Bailowitz and Robert L. Smith, July 1987)

Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: A Flora of Southwestern Arizona: Part 2. The Checklist (Richard Stephen Felger, Susan Rutman, Jim Malusa and Thomas R. Van Devender, extract from Phytoneuron, April 9, 2013)

Ajo Peak to Tinajas Altas: Flora of Southwestern Arizona: An Introduction (Richard Stephen Felger, Susan Rutman, Jim Malusa and Thomas R. Van Devender, extract from Phytoneuron, January 28, 2013)

Alamo and Kuakatch Wash floods of the 2012 monsoon: a short summary from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Natural Resources Division (November 13, 2012)

An Annotated List of Vascular Plants of the Chiricahua Mountains Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Special Report No. 12 (Peter S. Bennett, R. Roy Johnson and Michael R. Kunzmann, October 1996)

An Archeological Survey of the Ajo Crest, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Southwestern Arizona Western Archeological and Conservation Center (Michael G. Mallouf, 1980)

An evaluation of feral burro at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (R. Hungerford, undated)

Arizona Explorer Junior Ranger (Date Unknown)

Assessment of Scientific Information and Activities at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Biosphere Reserve Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Special Report No. 10 (Peter S. Bennett, R. Roy Johnson and Michael M. McCarthy, July 1990)

Border Enforcement Activities Newsletters: March 2004May 2004

Desert Ranger Guide (For the Not-So-Junior Ranger), Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Date Unknown)

Disruption rates for one vulnerable soil in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, USA (Robert H. Webb, Todd C. Esque, Kenneth E. Nussear and Mark Sturm, extract from Journal of Arid Environments, 95, 2013)

Draft General Management Plan/Development Concept Plans/Environmental Impact Statement, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (March 1995)

Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement; Re-Analysis of Cumulative Impacts on the Sonoran Pronghorn, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (June 2001)

Ecological Monitoring Program: Annual Report 1993, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (September 1995)

Ecological Monitoring Program: Annual Report 1994, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (May 1998)

Ecological Monitoring Program: Annual Report 1995, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (June 1998)

Ecological Monitoring Program: Monitoring Protocol Manual, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Cooperative Park Studies Unit Special Report No. 11 (September 1995)

Ecology of the Amphibians and Reptiles at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 53 (Philip C. Rosen and Charles H. Lowe, April 1996)

Final General Management Plan / Development Concept Plans / Environmental Impact Statement, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (July 1997)

Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement; Re-Analysis of Cumulative Impacts on the Sonoran Pronghorn, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (June 2001)

Foundation Document, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (May 2016)

Foundation Document Overview, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (May 2018)

Geologic Resources Inventory Report, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/NRSS/GRD/NRR-2022/2399 (Katie KellerLynn, June 2022)

Grasshoppers and Butterflies of the Quitobaquito Management Area, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 21 (Kenneth J. Kingsley and Richard A. Bailowitz, July 1987)

Historic Resource Study: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (Jerome A. Greene, September 1977)

Historic Structure Report: Bates Well Ranch, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (June 2007)

Historic Structures Report: Blankenship Ranch, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (Historical Data Section: Roy E. Appleman; Architectural Data Section: Russell Jones, June 18, 1969)

Historic Structures Report: The Milton Mine, Parts I & II, Organ Pipe Cactus N.M., Arizona (Historical Data Section: Roy E. Appleman; Architectural Data Section: Russell Jones, June 2, 1969)

Historic Structures Report: Victoria Mine, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (Historical Data Section: Roy E. Appleman; Architectural Data Section: Russell Jones, June 10, 1969)

Historical Research Administrative, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Rough Draft (Wilton Hoy, October 1970)

Hydrogeology of the Quitobaquito Springs and La Abra Plain area, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, and Sonora, Mexico USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4295 (R.L. Carruth, 1996)

Hydrologic and Limnologic Features of Quitobaquito Pond and Springs, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 22 (Stuart G. Fisher, June 1989)

International Boundary Vehicle Barrier Biological Assessment, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (March 2003)

Interpretive geologic map of Mt. Ajo Quadrangle, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona USGS Open-File Report 92-23 (Janet L. Brown, 1992)

Interpretive Prospectus, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (September 1992)

Invertebrates of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 60 (Kenneth J. Kingsley, December 1998)

Junior Arizona Archeologist (2016)

Junior Ranger Guide, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (Date Unknown)

Land Use Trends Surrounding Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 39 (Bruce Brown, July 1991)

Mammals of the Quitobaquito Management Area, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 36 (Yar Petryszyn and E. Lendell Cockrum, December 1990)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms

Bates Well Ranch (Lawrence F. Van Horn, March 30, 1994)

Bull Pasture (Jerome A. Greene, April 15, 1977)

Dos Lomitas Ranch (Lawrence F. Van Horn, March 17, 1994)

Gachado Well and Line Camp (Jerome A. Greene, April 15, 1977)

Growler Mine Area (Jerome A. Greene, April 15, 1977)

I'itoi Mo'o (I'toi's/Montezuma's Head) and 'Oks Daha (Old Woman Sitting) (Lawrence F. Van Horn, January 14, 1994)

Milton Mine (Jerome A. Greene, April 15, 1977)

Victoria Mine (Jerome A. Greene, April 15, 1977)

Non-native Plants of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 31 (Richard S. Felger, April 1990)

Nocturnal Rodent Population Densities and Distribution at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 52 (Yar Petryszyn and Stephen Russ, February 1996)

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (HTML edition) NPS Natural History Handbook No. 6 (Natt N. Dodge, 1964)

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Biosphere Reserve Sensitive Ecosystems Program Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Special Report No. 7 (Paul S. Bennett and Michal R. Kunzmann, October 1987)

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Superintendent's 2010 Report on Natural Resource Vital Signs (2011)

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Visitor Survey: Data Entry and Analysis (Lesli Peterson Scott, Doug Scott, Anita Judson and Rod Baxter, June 1989)

Organ Pipe Cactus: Where Edges Meet (©Bill Broyles, 1996)

Park Newspaper: 200520122015-20162016-20172017-2018

Prehistoric Lithic Artifacts Collected from Bates Well Ranch, AZ Z:13:39(ASM), Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Pima County, Arizona Cultural Resources Report No. ORPI 2010A.1 (Connie Thompson Gibson, March 2011)

Proposed Vehicle Barrier Environmental Assessment, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (April 2003)

Report on the 1989 Visitor Use Survey, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (March 9, 1990)

Report on the 1989 Visitor Use Survey — Volume 1: Visitors' Comments, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (March 9, 1990)

Report on the 1989 Visitor Use Survey — Volume 2: Visitors' Comments, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (March 9, 1990)

Report on the 1989 Visitor Use Survey — Volume 3: Visitors' Comments, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona (March 9, 1990)

Report on Treaties, Agreements, and Accords Affecting Natural Resource Management at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Special Report No. 8 (Carlos Nagel, November 1988)

Resource Briefs

Acoustic Environment and Soundscape (undated)

Atmospheric Deposition at Organ Pipe Cactus NM (2010)

Birds: 2009 (Patty Valentine-Darby and Moez Ali, May 24, 2010)

Climate Change in the Sonoran Desert Network: Current Findings and How Future Monitoring Will Detect It (2010)

Landbird Monitoring: 2010 (Patty Valentine-Darby and Moez Ali, October 17, 2011)

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: How might future warming alter visitation? (June 22, 2015)

Photic Environment and Lightscapes (undated)

Plant Responses to Climate Change in the Sonoran Desert: Recent Research and Findings (2012)

Quitobaquito Pond and Springs (Cori Knudten, August 17, 2010)

Recent Climate Change Exposure of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (July 28, 2014)

Visibility at Organ Pipe Cactus NM (2010)

Resumen del documento fundacional, Monumento nacional pitaya dulce (May 2018)

Soil Survey, A Special Report: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Pima County, Arizona (Earl Chamberlin, Ken Dunstan, George Hartman, Kenneth Vogt and George Wendt, December 1972)

Soil Survey, An Interim Report: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Pima County, Arizona (Earl Chamberlin, Ken Dunstan, George Hartman, Kenneth Vogt and George Wendt, December 1972)

Sonoran Desert National Park, Arizona: A proposal (May 1965)

Springs, Seeps and Tinajas Monitoring Protocol: Chihuahuan and Sonoran Desert Networks NPS Natural Resource Report NPS/SODN/NRR-2018/1796 (Cheryl McIntyre, Kirsten Gallo, Evan Gwilliam, J. Andrew Hubbard, Julie Christian, Kristen Bonebrake, Greg Goodrum, Megan Podolinsky, Laura Palacios, Benjamin Cooper and Mark Isley, November 2018)

State of the Park Report, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona State of the Park Series No. 3 (April 2013)

Status of Cyprinodon macularius eremus, A New Subspecies of Pupfish from Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 24 (Robert Rush Miller and Lee A. Fuiman, August 1987)

Supplement to the Draft General Management Plan/Development Concept Plans/Environmental Impact Statement, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (March 1996)

The History of Ranching at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Thematic Context Study (R. Brooks Jeffery and Robin Pinto, September 2009)

The Papago Country, Arizona: A Geographic, Geologic, and Hydrologic Reconnaissance, with a Guide to Desert Watering Places USGS Water-Supply Paper 499 (Bryan Kirk, 1925)

The Quijotoa Valley Project (E. Jane Rosenthal, Douglas R. Brown, Marc Severson and John B. Clonts, 1978)

The Quitobaquito Cemetery and Its History Western Archeological and Conservation Center (Fillman Bell, Keith M. Anderson, and Yvonne G. Stewart, 1980)

Vegetation Recovery Following Livestock Removal Near Quitobaquito Springs, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit Technical Report No. 20 (Peter L. Warren and L. Susan Anderson, January 1987)

Wetlands Conservation: Quitobaquito Hills Springs, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, July 1995-October 1998 (undated)



Handbooks ◆ Books expand section

Videos

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Visitor's Center drive to Lukeville Port of Entry



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Last Updated: 29-Jun-2022