"Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument" Top 5 Page for this destination Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument by KimberlyAnn

We first visited this desert in 2001, and loved Organ Pipe so much that we extended what was planned as a two-week stay into a three-week stay, then made a return three week visit in 2005. Organ Pipe, a Sonoran Desert, is a wilderness of plants, animals, mountains and plains. You can drive this park along lonely roads or hike a backcountry trail. You will find 26 species of cacti inhabiting the monument, including the saguaro and the organ pipe cactus, which the monument is named for. The organ pipe is a large cactus that is very rare in the United States, but is common in Mexico. Most of the organ pipe cacti in the U.S. live within Organ Pipe national Monument. This monument encompasses 516-square-miles, and is an outstanding natural wilderness preserve where you will view a desert that is almost unspoiled. In 1976, the United Nations understanding the importance of this area of the world recognized Organ Pipe as an International Biosphere Reserve.

In 2005 SW Arizona had an above average winter rainfall. To see the greenery and the flowers these rains brought to the desert, please see my travelogues Desert Carpet of Wild flowers and Desert Greenery

My Introductory photo is of the Organ Pipe Cactus that the park is named for.

Border Problems

The monument lies close to the International Boundary with Mexico, and over the years, problems with illegal boarder crossings have caused more and more safety concerns. In 2005 we found that all, except 5 miles, of the Puerto Blanco Drive was closed to visitors. This area of the park has had an increase in illegal activity along the boarder between the U.S. and Mexico. Drug runners and people sneaking across the boarder into the U.S. illegally frequently cross in this area on foot and in vehicles. Since then a fence has been constructed along the Mexican boarder of Organ Pipe to prevent vehicles from illegally entering the U.S. from Mexico and driving across the backcountry of the monument. The park is watching the situation to decide if and when it will be safe to reopen the drive. Since we were last there, all backcountry areas are also closed for overnight use.

For updated information on closures visit

For More Information On the Border

If you are interested in the plight of Mexicans coming into the U.S. illegally you may wish to read the book, The Devils’s Highway a true story by Luis Alberto Urrea. This book is a moving, story that tells of a tragic incident that ended in the death of 14 Mexicans. The book will open your eyes to the difficulties of the U.S. Border Patrol, and the desperation of those trying to come to the U.S. from Mexico illegally. Part of the tale takes place in Organ Pipe National Monument and its nearby Mexican town of Sonoyta, Mexico. According to this book Organ Pipe is the most dangerous national park in America due to the drug and human smugglers crossing its backcountry. Most of this activity takes place in the Puerto Blanco area, which explains the closing of this section of the park.

You may also visit the web pages for the Border Information Outreach Service at www.us-mex.org/borderlines

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:If you are interested in a desert with a wide variety of plants and wildlife, and you enjoy getting away from city life and back to nature then this is the place for you.
  • Cons:If you must have trees, and if you are not an outdoors type of person you will not like Organ Pipe. From May through September you can find temperatures that can exceed 105 degrees, making hiking dangerous as well as uncomfortable.
  • In a nutshell:A good place to get back to nature while hiking, bird watching, and exploring what I consider the most beautiful desert in the United States. Sadly, however, due to the Mexican border problems, this park is not as safe as it once was.
  • Last visit to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: Feb 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (22)

Comments (14)

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Mar 13, 2009 at 11:17 AM

    What a wealth of information, especially hiking information. Informational, helpful, and, best of all, quite interesting. Beautiful photographs. Enjoyed travelogues, too.

  • DSwede's Profile Photo
    Jul 17, 2008 at 6:04 AM

    Again, wonderful stuff. I love the far out places of the west & southwest!

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    Apr 25, 2008 at 9:33 PM

    What an amazing place. I love cacti. Was at Sonora Desert museum at Tucson but would visit this National Monument next time. Thanks for sharing. SL :)

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Jul 24, 2007 at 4:50 AM

    Excellent page with great five star (yes, Ian is right!) tips. The scenery looks wonderful and the Mexican food sounds yummy :)

  • hindu1936's Profile Photo
    Mar 24, 2006 at 11:21 PM

    very nice. thank you

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Dec 4, 2005 at 3:31 PM

    Great page for an out of the way NP!

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Jul 19, 2004 at 6:36 PM

    I think I'll stick to the Mexican seafood, I don't think the rock licking is my style! How anyone rates your pages less than five is a mystery to me.

  • ania70pl's Profile Photo
    Dec 13, 2003 at 11:02 AM

    Great cacti page, very useful tips and wonderful pics. I like cacti because they don't need a lot of water to survive ;-)

  • matcrazy1's Profile Photo
    Oct 31, 2003 at 3:49 PM

    EXCELLENT page and tips! How could I skip it? Hmm... Saguaro NP looked great as well. Thanks for Mexican Refried Beans recipe. I must ask for Monterey Jack cheese in my supermarket now - can you imagine their faces there?

  • Nobbe's Profile Photo
    Jul 15, 2003 at 4:14 PM

    Oh, now I see what I missed there! Lovely page!


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