Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument isn’t just a national monument. It is also a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. An eco-rich expanse, it covers more than 330,000 acres and is home to an impressive array of plants and animals. As the name implies, one of the resident plant species is the organ pipe cactus. This is actually the only place in the United States where the organ pipe cactus grows wild. Unlike the saguaro cactus, to which it is similar in many ways, the organ pipe cactus does not form a single main trunk. Instead, it has many trunks. These trunks can be 20 feet tall and resemble organ pipes. In the way of plant life, the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument features other types of cacti, as well as a variety of other desert flora that is native to this section of the Sonoran Desert. As for the resident animals, they include mountain lions, javelinas, lesser long-nosed bats, desert bighorn sheep, Sonoran pronghorns, mule deer, white-tailed deer, coyotes, jackrabbits, and a host of other fascinating creatures. The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is certainly a place where visual wonders await. This is especially true when you also consider its diverse geological landscape.

Ajo Mountains

Ajo Mountains
Ajo Mountains  Image: evragasa (flickr)

The Ajo Mountains are a dominant feature of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument landscape. Comprised of red, yellow, and brown volcanic rock, they are jagged and rugged. The tallest Ajo Mountains peak that is found in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is aptly known as Mt. Ajo. It reaches an elevation of 4,808 feet above sea level and can more specifically be found in the eastern part of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. For those who are interested, it is possible to climb to the top of Mt. Ajo via an unmaintained class one trail. Once at the summit, climbers can see out over the eastern portion of the national monument area. They can also catch glimpses of the Tohono O’odham Reservation and the surrounding mountain ranges in Arizona and Mexico. Other notable hiking trails that are found in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument include the Arch Canyon Trail, the Estes Canyon Trail, and the Bull Pasture Trail. Visitors who prefer taking in the landscape while driving can access two well-graded gravel roads. Among these roads is the renowned Ajo Mountain Drive. A 21-mile, one-way loop, Ajo Mountain Drive winds its way through the Ajo Mountains foothills. The other road is known as Puerto Blanco Drive. It is five miles long and leads to a picnic area.

Organ Pipe National Monument Camping

Organ Pipe National Monument Camping
Organ Pipe National Monument Camping

Organ Pipe National Monument visitors who don’t want to leave once the sun starts to set can hope to secure a site at one of the monument’s two campgrounds. These campgrounds are known as the Twin Peaks Campground and the Alamo Campground. The Twin Peaks Campground has 34 tent-only sites and 174 RV sites. Facilities include restrooms with running water and a dump station. A few of the restrooms have solar showers. The RV sites do not have hookups. As for the Twin Peaks Campground, it is more rustic and has just four tent-only sites. No water is available and fires are not permitted. No hotels are found in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. However, there are some old motels and a bed and breakfast in the nearby town of Ajo. Travelers can also find chain-brand lodging establishments further north in the town of Gila Bend.

Organ Pipe Cactus Map

Organ Pipe Cactus Map
Organ Pipe Cactus Map

An Organ Pipe Cactus map shows that the protected area can be found in Southern Arizona approximately halfway between Tucson and Yuma. Tucson is 140 miles east of the monument, while Yuma lies 185 miles to the west. The southern border of the monument is formed by the Mexico border. Bordering the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to the west is the rather inhospitable Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Transportation in the monument is only available by private vehicle, foot, or bicycle. Maps of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument can be obtained at the Kris Eggle Vistor Center.

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