Saguaro National Park is located to the west and east of Tucson, AZ, home of the giant saguaro and the largest cacti in the country. The giant saguaro have become the symbol of the American West, and are found in few parts of the nation. Visitors to the park can view these massive, majestic cacti with the beautiful desert sunset in the background. Saguaro National Park is about much more than just cactus though. People have lived in the area for thousands of years, from the prehistoric Hohokam to ranchers and homesteaders. They all left their own mark on the land as they raised families, planted crops, hunted, and tended livestock.
Saguaro National Monument in Arizona was established by Herbert Hoover on March 1, 1933. The monument contained the almost empty desert, fifteen miles to the east of Tucson. Times, however, sometimes change quickly. President Franklin Roosevelt, just two months later, gave the order for sixteen national monuments to be given to the National Park Service. Thus, Saguaro started its journey to the national park it is today.
This progress was often painful. Young cacti were trampled on by cattle for decades, "cactus rustling" was rampant, and water had to be hauled from the town's center by early rangers. Aging cacti and a lack of regeneration caused many people to believe the giant saguaro was a dying breed, quite a bit like the frontier life the cactus symbolized.
In the 1950's, a visitor center was opened in the park, and a better understanding of the life cycle of the giant saguaro through significant scientific research was brought by 1970. President Kennedy, at the urging of Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall and the citizens of Tucson, added an additional twenty-five square miles of spectacular cactus lands located in the Tucson Mountains to the Saguaro National Monument. The national monument became Saguaro National Park in 1994 after Congress set aside an expansive amount of wilderness area. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.
2.Nature & Science
5.Water in Saguaro National Park
6.Junior Ranger Programs
7.Not So Junior Ranger Program
Best Places to Visit in Arizona: Saguaro National Park in Tucson
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- Nature & Science, Photo: Courtesy of steheap - Fotolia.com
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- Plants, Photo: Courtesy of CrackerClips - Fotolia.com
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- Junior Ranger Programs, Photo: Courtesy of Dennis - Fotolia.com
- Not So Junior Ranger Program, Photo: Courtesy of Karoline- Fotolia.com
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More Ideas: Tumacacori National Historical Park
Located in the Santa Cruz River Valley of southern Arizona, Tumacácori National Historical Park is a 360-acre park commemorating several historic Spanish mission communities throughout Santa Cruz County. Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the continental United States, the Tumacácori area was the home of the Tohono and Akimel O'odham indigenous people, descendants of the Sobaipuri people.
The history of Spanish mission activity in the Santa Cruz River Valley dates back to 1691, when Eusebio Francisco Kino established two Jesuit missions, Mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori and Mission Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi. The first Tumacácori mission, San Cayetano, was resettled on the Santa Cruz River’s west bank in 1751, following a battle between the Jesuits and a force of Akimel O'odham who attacked the settlement. Throughout the next century and a half, the Jesuit community became the leading social and economic force in the region, operating the original two missions along with a third mission, Mission San Cayetano de Calabazas, which opened in 1756. The advent of the Mexican wars for independence in the early 19th century began to precipitate the decline of the missions, however, which were finally abandoned following a series of Apache raids and a difficult winter in 1848.
The mission sites became part of the state of Arizona after the United States’ Gadsen Purchase in 1854. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Tumacácori site part of a National Monument and restoration efforts on the buildings began to bring them up to condition for public touring. The Tumacácori mission site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1966, and in 1990, the National Monument was converted into a National Historical Park, encompassing all three historic missions.
Today, Mission San José de Tumacácori is open to the public as a living history museum inside the Historical Park. Visitors may explore the mission’s remains, including its grounds, as part of self-guided tours. The central building of the mission is its church building, which features a blend of Egyptian, Roman, and Moorish architecture, including a three-story bell tower that was never completed by its builders. The interior of the church building includes a preserved nave, choir loft, baptistry, sanctuary, and sacristy, which opens out onto a convento courtyard. Outside on the mission’s grounds, visitors may explore the facility’s cemetery, storehouse, and the ruins of its convento, along with its gardens and orchard. A replica of a melhok ki, a traditional O'odham dwelling, is featured on the grounds, as well as a lime kiln used for making plaster and a compuerta that served as part of the mission’s water system. A statue of Father Kino is on display at the facility, along with a model of the mission as it existed during its religious use.
The park’s other two missions, the Guevavi and Calabazas missions, are not open to the general public for touring but may be explored via special appointment with park staff. A Visitor Center and Museum facility, opened in 1937, stands at the entrance to the park, serving as an orientation center and featuring exhibits related to the history and culture of the three missions. Murals painted by Herbert A. Collins detail important historical events of the missions, such as a large smallpox outbreak that claimed more indigenous lives than all of the area’s battles combined. Preserved wooden statues of saints from the church are displayed, along with lifelike models of the mission’s priests. A bookstore at the Center sells locally-made products and texts related to Tumacácori history, and a 15-minute orientation video is available for viewing via an interactive display.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Several themed field trip experiences are offered for pre-K through high school students, focusing on topics related to the history, architecture, and culture of Tumacácori. An hourlong River Walk tour experience is also offered for visitors of all ages as part of small group tours. Young visitors can participate in a self-guided Junior Ranger program, which leads participants through scavenger hunt activities throughout the park. Several Junior Ranger Days are also scheduled throughout the year, including a Mud Rangers program for middle school students that allows participants to earn community service hours.
Daily cultural demonstrations are presented on site by a variety of local and indigenous chefs, artists, and crafters. A number of special events are hosted at the park throughout the year, including a Harvest Party, a Día de los Muertos celebration, and the annual La Fiesta de Tumacácori, showcasing the culture of the area’s indigenous people.
1891 I-19 Frontage Rd, Tumacacori, AZ 85640, Phone: 520-377-5060
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More Ideas: Tonto National Monument
Located in the Superstition Mountains in Gila County, Arizona, the Tonto National Monument is an area that features several well-preserved cliff dwellings from the Salado culture dating back to the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries. Situated on the northeastern edge of the Sonoran Desert, the National Monument is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and attracts visitors from all over the world to see the dwellings, which overlook Theodore Roosevelt Lake and the surrounding Sonoran Desert.
Located within the Tonto Basin of the Upper Sonoran Desert, the Tonto National Monument takes care of two beautifully preserved prehistoric cliff dwellings, along with an array of various artifacts and items found in the area. The well-preserved cliff dwellings dating back to the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries when they were occupied by the Salado culture, who farmed in the Salt River Valley. The Salt River originally flowed through the Tonto Basin, creating a well-irrigated and lush landscape on which to farm. Today, the Tonto Basin has flooded and formed the Theodore Roosevelt Lake, over which the dwellings look. Fine craftspeople, the Salado produced intricately woven textiles and vibrant polychrome pottery, remnants if which have been discovered at the site and are on display in the Visitor Center Museum. The site features a 20-room Lower Cliff Dwelling and a 40-room Upper Cliff Dwelling, both of which are believed to have been started in around 1330 CE.
In addition to the cliff dwellings, the National Monument is surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes that are home to a diverse variety of fauna and flora. The Tonto National Forest features desert scrubland, flat plains, and dense alpine forests, while the Upper Sonoran ecosystem is renowned for its native saguaro cacti, as well as other plants such as yucca, prickly pear, cholla, barrel cacti, agave, and mesquite trees.
A lush riparian area of the region is home to a range of trees such as hackberry, Arizona Sycamore, and Arizona walnut, and acres of colorful wildflowers in good years when there is rain. Native fauna to call the region home include mountain lion, whitetail and mule deer, bobcat, and three rattlesnake species, among others. The area surrounding the Tonto National Monument also includes several designated National Wilderness Areas, including Salome Wilderness, Superstition, and Four Peaks.
The Tonto National Monument is located within the Tonto Basin of the Upper Sonoran Desert, in the Superstition Mountains in Gila County, Arizona and is open to the public from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. The Lower and Upper Cliff Dwellings are reached by short hiking trails - one mile to the Lower Cliff Dwelling and 3 miles to the Upper Cliff Dwelling from the Visitor Center. Guided tours of the dwellings are also available.
A Visitor Center offers an excellent introduction the monument, the cliff dwellings and the people who built them more than 700 years ago and a newly remodeled museum feature artifacts and replicas of items found in the homes. A park movie is shown on demand, and a bookstore sells educational and monument-related items.
26260 AZ-188, Roosevelt, AZ 85545, Phone: 928-467-2241
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