Saturday, March 8, 2014

Organ Pipe National Monument

In an attempt to follow up on my recent return to blogging, here's another post already! Will wonders never cease?

After dropping off Dale at Colossal Cave for his continuing journey on the AZT, we moved out to a boondocking location about 2 miles south of Why. One really does need to ask why. There are a few houses, a gas station, a cafe, a couple RV parks and lots of Border Patrol agents. There's not much else.

On Thursday we drove about 15 miles south to the Visitor Center at Organ Pipe. We watched the 15 minute movie, took the very short nature walk, and then took the 21 mile loop dirt road around Ajo Mountain. Some of the road was in pretty good condition but there were places a Jeep would have been a better choice than a Lexus.

We stopped about half way around and took a 2 mile hike up Arch Canyon. There is a double arch, one above the other, that is very interesting to see. On the loop we saw plenty of organ pipe cactus. This is the only place they exist in the US but they do grow further south into Mexico. Although the arms look a lot like a Saguaro, they have a very different internal structure. Instead of the wood ribs that form the trunk of the saguaro, the organ pipe has a single wood like shaft in the center. It's quite large in comparison to the ribs of the saguaro. They appear to be up to 3 or 4 inches in diameter.

Friday we drove about 20 miles up the road to Ajo. It was built as a mining town in the early 1900's and is architecturally interesting. There is a central plaza that reminds me of Santa Fe, and the old school, which is now an apartment building workshop space for artists, is also interesting. The entire Ajo area is dwarfed by the huge piles of tailing from the mine and smelter. We drove up to the open pit lookout but it was closed. Nonetheless, we were able to see almost all the way to the bottom from another vantage point. It is one huge hole. The mine closed down in 1985 but the town seems to be going relatively strong.

Today we moved back to Tucson and are staying at the Pima County Fairgrounds. We plan to be here about a week before returning to Mesa.


  1. You make even a boring place like Organ Pipe Monument sound appealing. I would never have been drawn to explore a place like that (guess I've spent to much of my life in the desert to be impressed by it anymore) but sounds like you found it to be an educational and refreshing sojourn into nature.

  2. Any idea what people in Ajo do for a living since the mine closed? It doesn't seem like there would be anything to support a town and if I recall Ajo is several thousand people. Maybe I should look it up.

  3. I have no idea. Some probably work for Border Patrol.

    Also, note that the average age is 51. I suspect there are a lot of retired folk there. Not much opportunity for the younger set.

    BTW, the population is only a little over 3,000.

    Here's a link to a very detailed breakdown:

  4. I almost didn't bother checking your blog, never expecting to see another update so soon after the last one!

    I've done a little camping in Organ Pipe. Even back then the park had several trails through it where illegal immigrants and smugglers have come through. I would expect that hasn't changed.