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Saguaro National Park Photos ~ Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona

Updated on August 15, 2017
Peggy W profile image

Arizona is a fabulous state filled with beauty & natural wonders. Amazing canyons...think Grand!, mountains & desert scenery await visitors.

Saguaro National Park in Arizona
Saguaro National Park in Arizona | Source

Sonoran Desert

This post will address the beautiful and most iconic type of cactus called the Saguaro which is found in the Sonoran Desert area of Arizona, specifically in the set aside lands of the Saguaro National Park near Tucson.

It's uplifted arms make it distinctive from almost every other type of cacti found in this part of the world.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park | Source

In late April of 1998, my long time friend from Germany came over here for a visit. We had been friends ever since our shared operating room nursing experience years before in the Texas Medical Center.

Embarking upon a traveling adventure that would take us to 5 states, 10 national parks, and several additional state parks and national monuments, we spent 3 weeks together and traveled over 5,000 miles. It created memories for a lifetime!

My husband and I have also traveled through this stark and beautiful part of Arizona while spending some vacation time. Each visit to this national park has been memorable.

Prickly Pear cactus in bloom in the Saguaro National Park .
Prickly Pear cactus in bloom in the Saguaro National Park . | Source

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaros are the largest cacti in the Sonoran Desert and in all of the United States for that matter.

Distinct in their form with uplifted arms as they develop age, they only grow in this part of the United States.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park | Source

Life is tough in this North American desert and many things take a toll on the saguaros. This is one reason why this national park has been set aside to help ensure their survival.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Many different forms of cactus in addition to the saguaros in the Saguaro National ParkWildflowers in the Saguaro National ParkWildflowers in the Saguaro National Park
Many different forms of cactus in addition to the saguaros in the Saguaro National Park
Many different forms of cactus in addition to the saguaros in the Saguaro National Park | Source
Wildflowers in the Saguaro National Park
Wildflowers in the Saguaro National Park | Source
Wildflowers in the Saguaro National Park
Wildflowers in the Saguaro National Park | Source

Temperatures in the summer often climb to over 100 degrees. Rainfall is scarce. Typically less than 12 inches fall over the course of a year.

Grazing livestock used to trample the cactus which take so long a time to develop any size. That is no longer allowed within the confines of the park.

A seedling saguaro is about 1/4 of an inch tall after one year of growth.

It may be a foot tall after 15 years of growth and in another 15 years it begins to flower and bear fruit.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tall multi-branched saguaro with teddy bear cholla cacti in the foreground in Saguaro National ParkOne very old saguaro in Saguaro National Park!Saguaro National Park
Tall multi-branched saguaro with teddy bear cholla cacti in the foreground in Saguaro National Park
Tall multi-branched saguaro with teddy bear cholla cacti in the foreground in Saguaro National Park | Source
One very old saguaro in Saguaro National Park!
One very old saguaro in Saguaro National Park! | Source
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park | Source

The "arms" or branches first start beginning to sprout after the cactus reaches the age of 75 years!

Thus one can readily see that the ones which are 25 to 50 feet tall are well over 100 years old and even 150 years in many cases.

Video of the Saguaros and Indian petroglyphs

Life is Fragile!

Not only does heat and drought affect these largest cacti in the United States, but so do other factors including:

  • Killing freezes
  • Lightening and strong winds
  • Rodents and birds who eat them
  • Vandals and Cactus Rustlers who steal and sell them for landscaping projects.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Road through the Saguaro National ParkSaguaro National ParkSaguaro National ParkSaguaro National Park photo
Road through the Saguaro National Park
Road through the Saguaro National Park | Source
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park | Source
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park | Source
Saguaro National Park photo
Saguaro National Park photo | Source

The saguaro cactus has very shallow roots that are only about 3 inches below the ground. They fan out about as far as the cactus is tall.

The hair on the roots expand when moisture hits it thereby capturing every bit of life giving moisture from the infrequent rainfall.

Spongy flesh in the trunk and arms store the water and little evaporation takes place since the cactus has no leaves.

The ribs of the cactus actually expand or shrink depending upon how much water is being stored in the plant at one time.

Spines discourage many animals from taking moisture from the plant as they are very sharp.

Native Indians who used to live here used the ribs of these saguaros for building shelters. They also harvested the fruit to eat and make wine.

My friend and I did not get to see these saguaros in bloom. That typically happens in May and June and the blossoms open at night. By the next afternoon the flower is wilted. That spectacle lasts for only about a month each year.

Different birds, bats, bees and moths who feed on the nectar transport the pollen and do the necessary fertilizing from plant to plant.

Many other types of cactus and plants in the Saguaro National Park
Many other types of cactus and plants in the Saguaro National Park | Source

Living Amidst the Saguaros

Many holes exist in these tall specimens of the desert.

The Gila Woodpecker and the Gilded Flicker are both responsible for making holes in the trunks of the saguaro where they then make their nests.

Other birds like to take these already carved out holes for their homes as well. The holes not only provide safety for their nestlings, but also provide a respite from the heat and cold. It can be a difference of 20 degrees in these carved out shelters.

According to a brochure that I picked up, some of the birds that like to reside here include the following:

  • American Kestrel
  • Lucy's Warblers
  • Cactus Wrens
  • Western Kingbirds
  • Phainopeplas Elf Owls
  • Screech Owls
  • Purple Martins.
  • Even honeybees like to build their homes in these saguaro holes.

Other desert dwellers that reside around here include some of the following:

  • the cactus mouse
  • diamondback rattlesnake
  • quail
  • roadrunners
  • desert tortoise
  • Gila monster
  • kangaroo rat
  • javelinas
  • and jackrabbits to name a few. Most of these are nocturnal so one does not readily get to view them in the daytime.

Saguaro National Park West

The Sonoran Desert scenery is amazing but what makes this part of the desert near Tucson, Arizona really special are the distinctive saguaro cactus that define this part of the country. We are fortunate that they are protected with national park status.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park | Source

Have you ever visited the Saguaro National Park?

See results

Location of the Saguaro National Park

A markerSaguaro National Park -
Saguaro National Park, Tucson, AZ 85745, USA
get directions

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

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    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Nancy Owens,

      So glad that this brought back memories of your time spent in the desert. Appreciate your comment.

    • Nancy Owens profile image

      Nancy Owens 2 years ago from USA

      This is a very beautiful Hub. I enjoyed my time in the desert and this hub brings back memories.

    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Kathleen,

      I hope your dreams of moving to Sedona pan out someday. I agree with you that Arizona is such a beautiful state with such varied landscapes. Glad you enjoyed this hub. :)

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Such flattery Au fait regarding these photos. I am so pleased that you liked them. The Saguaro National Park is indeed worth viewing. Every time I have been there it is in the mode of passing through. Would be fun to actually spend more time there someday. Thanks for the shares. :)

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile image

      Kathleen Odenthal Romano 3 years ago from Bayonne, New Jersey

      Oh how I love arizona! I hope to move to Sedona one day, the scenery all over Arizona is just so beautiful, the people are nice, it is the polar opposite of here in the NYC area. Thanks for this great hub!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      I have been here but never got such incredible photos as you have here! Gave you 5 more stars, pinned this twice; to my 'Yellow & Orange II' board and my 'Green' board. Also posted on FB and will share with my followers. These photos are truly amazing. Everyone needs to visit this place. I had forgotten just how interesting and unique a place this is until I saw your photos and they do bring back the memories!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi moonlake,

      The majestic saguaro cactus certainly have a recognizable shape and are familiar to so many people even if they have never seen them in person because of all the western movies filmed in those areas. Nice to know that you enjoyed learning more about them. Thanks for your comment & share.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      Beautiful catus hub so much great information on the saguaros. Voted up and shared.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi vespawoolf,

      The Saguaro cactus are amazing looking plants and it was a first for my friend from Germany to see them first-hand. As to drinking saguaro wine...I did not know that anyone made wine from saguaro cactus. Interesting! Thanks for the votes and share.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi rajan jolly,

      Yes, the saguaro cactus can grow to very tall heights but obviously it takes quite a while as it grows very slowly. So glad that you enjoyed viewing these photos. Thanks for your votes and share.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      How nice to have taken a nice, long vacation and see Arizona through the eyes of your friend! What beautiful photos and information about the saguaro. I've always been fascinating with this giant among cacti. I wonder what saguaro wine tastes like?? Voted up and shared!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      This is beautiful, am amazedat how tall the Saguaro cactus grows. Wonderful info. Your pictures are beautiful Peggy. Voted up, useful, interesting, and sharing.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Barbsbitsnpieces,

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed this article about the strikingly distinctive Saguaro National Park. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 5 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      @Peggy W...Beautifully done Hub loaded with information about a beautiful place! Thanks!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Chuck,

      It would be wonderful to see a saguaro in bloom. Does it look like other cactus blooms? I spent my teenage years in southern Texas so are very familiar with cactus blooms but of course did not have the saguaros living there. Many parts of Texas also have cactus, but as you know the areas where saguaros live are limited. Must be nice hiking in the Saguaro National Park! Thanks for your comment.

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 5 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Excellent Hub. I live in Tucson and have had the pleasure of hiking in both the east and west parts of Saguaro National Park. In fact the West Saguaro sector of the park is about a 15 minute drive from our home in Tucson.

      Too bad you missed seeing the saguaro in bloom. In springtime the Sonoran Desert comes alive with numerous varieties of cacti blooming. While areas like Saguaro National Park are great for viewing this, one only has to step outside as cacti are common and a simple walk down one's street is all that is needed to see cacti in bloom.

      Great Hub.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Billy,

      The Saguaro National Park certainly has a vast collection of these types of cactus that have limited areas in which they thrive. The shapes are often symbolic of the West. Glad to hear that you enjoyed seeing these photos taken on several different trips. Thanks for your comment.

    • billyaustindillon profile image

      billyaustindillon 5 years ago

      Peggy great cacti photos from the Sonoran desert - another great resource for geography and biology classes.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Peter, Nice to meet a caretaker for these wonderful saguaro cactus. It would be heartbreaking to see these magnificent specimens die due to the cold weather after caring for them.

    • profile image

      Peter 8 years ago

      I moved to Arizona in 2001 and I love the desert and couldnt live anywhere else now. I care for around 50 saguaros that needed to be moved due to a pipe-line project in the central AZ town that I live in. WE live on the northern edge of where sagauros survive and its sad to watch what happens when it gets too cold for them. I worry about the cold more then the heat/drought.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello kiwi91, Glad this could bring back good memories for you. We have lots of roadrunners in Texas also. Thanks for commenting.

    • kiwi91 profile image

      kiwi91 8 years ago from USA

      I've been to Saguaro and loved it. I went to both sections of the park a few years ago. I saw a couple of roadrunners that ran across the road, so I was happy. Great hub!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      C.C., Hope you never have to repeat any of your OR experiences. Interesting for you to see, but hardly entertaining in any regular sense of the word. Good that you could enjoy the joking. Lots of that goes on in operating rooms! Hope you get to Big Bend someday.

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 8 years ago

      Peggy, it was very interesting to see some of the stuff they did to install an abdominal stent in my aorta, I was awake for most of it as I had a spinal we were all joking around during a huge blizzard at the time on Valentines Day morning.

      I had my Defibrillator put in next, but they had my head covered up. I did not like it as when he made the pouch in my chest I felt everybit of it and my ass hurt after a 3 hour period on that damn table.

      I watched in a mirror while a huge lympnode was removed from my neck, hurt like crazy, but it was something.

      I do want to come to Big Bend some time for the birdwatching is most excellant.thanks again dear.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for the compliment, Jed. Photos are my favorite souvenirs.

      Yes, Big Bend is beautiful and so diverse between the desert and the Chisos Mountains. My husband and I spent only 3 days there many years ago. Wish we had spent a few more. Would have done more hiking in the mountains.

      Like you said, fewer people see that National Park compared to others. The distances are so vast in Texas and access is limited with roads going there.

      Wasn't Santa Elena Canyon beautiful?

    • profile image

      jed grey 8 years ago

      Well done, Peggy. My favorite is Big Bend for sheer wilderness

      and minimal impact of humanity on the desert which does have

      a fragile ecology. I've rraveled all over the great Southwest and

      always marvel at the beauty of a desert.

      BTW, your photos are excellent.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Out of curiousity, C.C., just what kind of surgery do you like watching when it is being done to you?

      Amazing that I ever became a nurse! Once when I was little and hopping around on a pogo stick (remember those?) in the basement of my parent's home, I fell and ended up going through the glass window on the door to the root cellar. The glass cut an artery in my left arm and so much blood was spurting onto my two younger brothers as well as me, that it took a short time for my parents (who reacted to all the crying and screaming) to determine who was really hurt.

      They put pressure on my arm and drove me to our country doctor who stitched up my arm without anesthesia. No time!

      I guess all the Cherry Ames books that my grandmother kept giving to me for birthday and Christmas gifts influenced me in wanting to become a nurse. Cherry Ames, Student Nurse. Cherry Ames, Senior Nurse. Cherry Ames, Army Nurse............and so it went. About 21 kinds of nursing, if I remember correctly.

      Years later, I donated that series to a school. Maybe it inspired other young minds?

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 8 years ago

      I hear ya bout the roaches. Also that Teresa is someone I'd really enjoy being with, very interesting person. I hate watching surgery and stuff like that, unless it's on me. Even watching a pup getting worked on is too much for me. I have and can butcher or slaughter, but that's different. fun hub dear

      Oh, I was extremely fearful of spiders not too many years ago.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hey C.C., I've just read some of Teresa's hubs and from what I have learned, I think that she could handle that and more! Strong lady! Now me......I would just as soon stay away from those critters!!!

      Never did like spiders, snakes and such. My Dad used to wonder how I could stand the blood and guts related to working in an operating room when I screeched when I would see a roach. Always wondered to myself what one had to do with the other? Ha!

      I no longer screech, but I still prefer asking my husband to do the "honors" of getting rid of these infrequent visitors if they get inside our home. Combat to the rescue!!! Works really well if one replaces them every 3 months.

      People in colder climates think that roaches exist only in dirty environments. Newsflash!..........in the South...........they are everywhere!

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 8 years ago

      I would. I'd like to be there when she sees her first rattler. LOL or hairy spider big as my hand. LOL

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Goldentoad, If a rain brings out the rattlers...I am glad that it was a bright and sunny day! Ha! In all seriousness, anytime one is walking through an area like this, one should be aware of one's surroundings.

      Teresa, If you come to see this park, make time for others in this part of the country also! You won't be disappointed!

      C.C., Lets put out the red carpet for Teresa if she comes this way!

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 8 years ago

      That'd be an awful long drive from Ireland Teresa, bring it on over dear. LOL

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Beautiful hub -- you make me want to drive out there to see for myself. Thanks!

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 8 years ago from Free and running....

      watch out for those rattlers. Nothing like the smell of this desert after a rain.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a shame they did not make it, C.C. Guess the vast majority of them do not which is why it is great that this land has been set aside as a National Park.

    • profile image

      C. C. Riter 8 years ago

      Another beauty of a hub Peggy. Love it. I started saguaros from seed 12 years ago. I lost them though after 5 years.