NPS Photo/ Craig Stocks
Organ Pipe Cactus: A Complex Human Story
To the local Native Americans, the land of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was an important cultural center. Hohokam trade routes bisect what is now the monument, and allowed for ease of movement through the Sonoran Desert as people looked to acquire resources and trade with neighboring cultures. To the O’Odham people, the fruits of saguaro and organ pipe cactus provided food during the hot Sonoran summer.
The early national monument faced many challenges, especially with local miners and ranching families. Mineral mining began in the late 19th century, and was allowed to continue up to 1976. Hiking in the monument you can easily see the mining history in old prospecting holes, tailings, and buildings.
Ranching in the monument began at the beginning of the 20th century, and also continued through the 1970’s.The effects of overgrazing are still seen today. Ranching was done mainly by different generations of the local Gray family. You can visit old ranching sites at Alamo Canyon, Bates Well, and other wells scattered across the monument.
In 1976 The United Nations designated Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument as an International Biosphere Reserve, reconfirming its status as an outstanding example of the Sonoran Desert. Then in 1977, Congress declares 95% of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument as a wilderness area.
Use the links in the navigation bar at left to explore some of the stories that make Organ Pipe unique.