Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument lies in the heart of the Sonoran Desert and is home to all sorts of amazing life and inspiring beauty. This breathtaking landscape of extreme conditions and desert life is wonderous, yet can also be hazardous. Simply remembering to be aware of your surroundings, observing posted regulations, and knowing your limitations can mitigate most desert hazards. Learning the Leave No Trace principles can also help you preserve these natural areas for future generations.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument IS a safe place to visit. While there are border crossings happening within the monument, activity is usually happening far from places visitors visit. Migrants don't want to be reported, so it is highly unlikely visitors will ever encounter them as they don't want to be seen.
Cell phone service may be spotty within the monument. Visit the Kris Eggle Visitor Center from 9 am to 5 pm during the day to report suspicious behavior.
The desert is a land of extreme temperatures: usually above 100F in the summer, and lows of 30F-40F in winter. Having the right equipment is important for a safe trip. Visit our weather page for current conditions.
Apply sunscreen even to areas that are not exposed. The sun's damaging rays can penetrate clothing. In addition to sunscreen, wear a hat, long pants, and a light-colored long-sleeved shirt. Wear closed-toe shoes with good support. Reduce your activity during the hottest part of the day. Sit and cool off in the shade whenever it is available.
Many visitor injuries in the monument result from motor vehicle accidents due to speeding and collisions. Animals crossing roads, horses, bicyclists, pedestrians and flooded washes (during the rainy seasons) are common along the roads. Border Patrol and Law Enforcement may need to pass visitors in an emergency, and there are many blind spots along the dirt roads.
Desert plants are cute, quirky plants with many unique adaptations to help them survive the intense heat and retain precious water. Many plants in the desert have spines, thorns, and sharp edges that provide shade from the scorching sun and help protect them from browsing animals trying to get moisture. Some even use their spines to as a means to reproduce, like the cholla!
Unless habituated to humans, wildlife rarely wants to be close to people and that includes venomous animals. These creatures simply wish to be left alone and be given their space - just like us! Rarely are they aggressive, but when feeling threatened, they will take steps to protect themselves and unfortunately that can mean a sting or bite for an unaware visitor!
Javelinas, skunks, coyotes, squirrels, deer, ravens, and other wildlife are all local residents of the Sonoran Desert. These wild animals are capable of foraging for their own food and water, and aren't tame like our housepets. Feeding these animals habituates them to the presence of humans, making them seem tame until a human gets a little too close for their comfort!
Mountain lions are found within the monument and play a important role in the food web and ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert. Sightings are extremely rare; mountain lions see you long before you see them and usually leave the area long before visitors have found any traces of their presence. However, knowing how to avoid an encounter or what to do should an encounter with a mountain lion occur is always important.
Last updated: January 12, 2023