This winter we are trying to visit the National Parks in the southwest that we missed last year so, after our visit to San Diego, we decided to head over to Saguaro National Park in Arizona.
The park is divided into two separate sections with the city of Tucson and it’s one million residents in between. We visited the western section known as the Tucson Mountain District since that is where you find the impressive saguaro forest.
There are over 1.6 million individual saguaro plants in the national park. They seem so humorous the way they stand there with all their arms going in all directions. They are like the octopus of the plant world.
Being the universal symbol of the American Southwest, we have all seen pictures of the saguaro cactus. We’ve seen them in western movies, in ads for Mexican restaurants, and we’ve certainly seen them on many a car’s antenna. But when you see them for yourself for the first time, it’s an astonishing sight.
The giant cactus, the largest in the USA, can live up to 250 years. It takes 75 years before the cactus will sprout it’s first arm. By the time they are 100 years old they are about 25 feet tall and at 150 years old they are 50 feet tall and weight 16,000 pounds.
You might wonder how they survive in such a harsh environment with less then 12 inches of rainfall a year. Last year the park had over 40 days in a row with temperatures over 100 degrees! The saguaro do it with their extraordinary ability to soak up water. When it does rain, each cactus is able to soak up as much as 200 gallons of water, enough to last a whole year! It’s incredible how plants and animals can adapt to their environment.
All of the image above I made during the day. There was just enough cloud in the sky to make the daytime images interesting. I used a polarizing filter to emphasize the clouds.
Evening brought with it some beautiful light but the lovely puffy clouds had started to leave and a band of heavy cloud blanketed the horizon. I made the image below using my 3 stop graduated neutral density filter to even out the exposure between the sky and the foreground.
The evening before, when we first arrived at our campsite, I made the image below right behind our RV as the sun was setting. By exposing for the sky, the saguaro became a silhouette.
What a view! Our campsite was not technically in the national park, which has only backcountry camping. We camped just outside the national park in Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Mountain Park.
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