It’s thirty-three miles from the Ajo Plaza to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument’s Kris Eggle Visitor Center. That’s why Ajo is sometimes referred to as “the gateway to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.” Visiting the National Monument was definitely on my list of things I wanted to do while I was in the area.
According to http://www.nps.gov/orpi/learn/historyculture/index.htm,
…President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on April 13, 1937. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was created as a way to preserve a representative area of the Sonoran Desert. The new monument was part of a movement in the National Parks to protect not just scenic wonders but also the ecological wonders of the country.
The entrance fee to the OPCNM is $12, but that includes all occupants of a vehicle, and is good for seven days. I was quite fortunate to be in Ajo at the same time as the Divine Miss M. She has the federal land pass for seniors and was gracious enough to offer that we take her vehicle. I didn’t have to pay an admission fee! Thanks, Miss M!
One could easily visit the OPCNM seven days in a row.
There’s lots to do before leaving the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. According to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument Cactus Chronicle (http://www.nps.gov/orpi/learn/upload/2016-web-version.pdf),
The Kris Eggle Visitor Center is open 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Stop by for an informative slide presentation, a 1/10 mile stroll on the handicapped-accessible nature trail, the nature and museum exhibit room, bookstore, and answers from a park ranger or volunteer at the information counter.
The slide presentation is informative. Miss M and I caught it at the end of our second visit. It’s basically an overview of the weather patterns and the plant and animal life in the OPCNM, so I would recommend watching it before you go out on a hike or a ranger-led tour.
The visitor center is also your best bet for using the restroom and filling your water bottle before heading off into the wilderness.
If one likes educational programs or guided tours, there are many available in the monument. Any of these programs are included in the monument admission fee. According to http://www.nps.gov/orpi/planyourvisit/ranger-programs.htm, 15 minute “patio talks” are given three times a day (at 11am, 2pm, and 3pm) on the back patio of the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. In addition, there are a variety of ranger-led tours and hikes held throughout the week, including
Desert View Hike (Explore the desert ecosystem and see desert plants up close. A 1.5 mile easy loop trail with great views awaits.)
Ajo Mountain Van Tours (Take the opportunity to spend 3 hours with a ranger on a drive through one of the monument’s most beautiful areas.)
Location Talk- Quitobaquito Spring (Join a ranger at this gorgeous desert oasis and learn about the animals and its rich cultural history.)
Location Talk- Gachado Line Camp (Join a ranger at this historic cowboy line camp and explore the hard work it took to ranch the Sonoran Desert.)
Miss M and I went on a van tour and a hike; I’ll devote individual posts to those adventures.
For folks who’d rather go it alone, there are several scenic drives to take. (Find the drives listed here: http://www.nps.gov/orpi/planyourvisit/driving-and-biking.htm). Also,
bikes are allowed on all roads open to vehicle traffic.
Of course, there’s plenty of hiking in OPCNM for folks who are into that sort of thing. According to http://www.nps.gov/orpi/planyourvisit/hiking.htm,
There are miles and miles of trails laced around Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Some are easy, others are strenuous, most of them fall somewhere in between. Some of the best hiking is off the beaten trails and out in the canyons with a map and compass to guide you.
The above mentioned webpage lists over a dozen hikes and which drive to take to get to them.
I had a great time at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Two visits was not nearly enough to see everything there is to see and do everything there is to do.
I took all of the photos in this post.