History & Culture

Hoover Declaration

Land Designation

Herbert Hoover declared this land a National Monument on March 1st, 1933. Here is the historic document showing that very declaration. To learn more about our history and establishment click here

Becoming a Park

Congress officially elevated the area known as Saguaro National Monument to the current designation as a National Park in 1994. The land addition on the southern border of the Rincon Mountain District occurred that same year and with gracious land donations from time to time we have increased to our current land area.

Saguaro National Park sign, Petroglyphs, Homesteaders, CCC camp, & Signal Hill.

NPS Photo

Symbol From Culture Resource Brief
Petroglyph Saguaro West

NPS Photo

What Are Cultural Resources?

Cultural resources can be defined as physical evidence of past human activity: site, object, landscape, structure; or a site, structure, landscape, object or natural feature of significance to a group of people traditionally associated with it.

Types of cultural resources often found in national parks include:
Archeological resources: The remains of past human activity and records documenting the scientific analysis of these remains.
Historic structures: A building or other structure (such as a bridge, mine, canal, ship, or locomotive) that is significant because of its link to an important period in the past.
Cultural landscapes: Settings humans have created in the natural world.
Ethnographic resources: Sites, structures, landscapes, objects or natural features of significance to a traditionally associated group of people. Museum objects: Manifestations of human behavior and ideas.

Cultural Resources at Saguaro

The archeological sites at Saguaro National Park span more than 8,000 years of prehistoric and historic-period occupation. The prehistoric sites are primarily Archaic (3500-2100 BCE [before Common Era]) and Hohokam (500-1450 CE [Common Era]) artifact scatters with low surface visibility and expression. The artifact scatters represent villages, campsites, farmsteads, and stone quarries. Other prehistoric sites include rock art (petroglyphs and pictographs), rock shelters, and bedrock milling sites. The one prehistoric site that is accessible to the park visitor is Signal Hill. This is a small but distinct hill with petroglyphs on the many boulders that cover the hillside. Access to the site is from the Signal Hill picnic area.

Historic-period sites include ranching related sites, mining sites, limes kilns, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) structures and features, and historic-period trash scatters. The Freeman Homestead and two of the six lime kilns are on the Arizona State Register of Historic Places. Many of the CCC historic structures are in excellent condition and are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The Manning Cabin and the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center are listed in the National Register, as are all of the archeological sites in the Rincon Mountain District (RMD) below 4,000 feet, which are contributing elements of the Rincon Mountain Foothills Archeological National Register District.

Examples of the park’s historic structures can be found along several of the park maintained trails. The visitor can view two lime kilns along the Cactus Forest Trail in the RMD. Also along that trail are the remains of the first permanent building in Saguaro National Park that served as both residence and contact station. The Freeman Homestead can be found along the Freeman Homestead Trail. The RMD Visitor Center is an example of Mission 66 architecture. Manning Cabin, dating to 1905, is only accessible to those hearty individuals who can hike the 12 miles up the mountain; this does requires a back country permit.

Preservation in Action
Preservation in Action

NPS Photo

Managing Park Resources

Saguaro National Park’s (SNP) Cultural Resource Management Program (CRM) is responsible for the protection and preservation of the park’s cultural resources, compliant with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA), and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) (among others). Cultural resources include: archeological sites (both prehistoric and historic), buildings and structures, landscapes, museum objects, and historic documents. These items form tangible links with our past.

The NHPA requires the Park Service to inventory the historic properties under our control, evaluate them in terms of eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and nominate those that are determined eligible for the National Register. Section 106 of the NHPA requires that we consider the effects of our actions on historic properties and provide the regulatory agencies an opportunity to comment on potential impacts from those actions. This requirement safeguards against inadvertent impacts to historic properties from park actions. Under this requirement Cultural Resource staff consult with the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office as well as affiliated Native American tribes. The National Register of Historic Places is the Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation. Authorized under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect our historic and archeological resources.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act describes the rights of Native American lineal descendants, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations with respect to the treatment, repatriation, and disposition of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony, with which they can show a relationship of lineal descent or cultural affiliation

This statute provides greater protection for Native American burial sites and more careful control over the removal of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and items of cultural patrimony on Federal and tribal lands. Saguaro National Park’s cultural resources include over 450 archeological sites, over 60 historic structures, one cultural landscape (the Cactus Forest Drive), one traditional use area (for the collection of saguaro fruit), as well as many museum objects. SNP’s museum collections include cultural collections that document both prehistoric and historic human activity in the park and include archeological holdings, history collections and ethnology collections. The collection totals 12,469 cataloged objects and includes written documentation, photographs, and oral histories.

king canyon road repair

NPS Photo

A Case Study in Stabilization

The Cultural Resource Program at Saguaro National Park (SNP) has the responsibility of performing regularly scheduled condition assessments for both prehistoric and historic resources. These assessments document environmental and structural changes, including vandalism to cultural resources in the park

These reports provides the Park the necessary information to allocate funds and personnel to rectify conditions that might otherwise lead to the loss of a resource. The King Canyon Road is a 1.5 mile long cut and fill road built along the steep slopes of King Canyon Wash and connects Mile-Wide Mine to Kinney Road. The first 0.9 miles of road, from traihead to Mam-A-Gah picnic area, was worked on by the CCC in the base of the collapsed wall, was used to fill in behind the reconstructed walls. The work area was restored back to its natural condition and no evidence of the work remained for the visitor to see.

Photos documenting the condition of the walls, before and after stabilization, were taken. Photos documenting the work itself were also taken. Safety protocols were reviewed each day before work began and were stringently adhered to throughout the work day. No injuries were reported during this project.

moving a saguaro
Before image of Saguaro relocation

NPS Photo

A case study in preservation: preserving two culturally significant features with one saguaro.

A four foot tall Saguaro cactus growing within the ruins of one of the adobe structures at Camp Pima threatened the integrity of the adobe walls. Knowing that the structure has a concrete floor and that Saguaro roots tend to be fairly shallow it was felt that the roots of the cactus would eventually travel along the floor and infiltrate the adobe, thus impacting the integrity of the walls. To protect the adobe brick walls from the invasive roots it was decided to remove the saguaro and transplant it to a more appropriate location.

In May of 2015, biological technicians and the archeologist from SNP preformed the task of transplanting the saguaro.

The new home of the saguaro is the ring of saguaro cactus at the entrance of Camp Pima. The ring of saguaros is itself a significant cultural feature that was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Undoubtedly, the ring was created during the construction of the camp in 1933 when a number of good sized saguaros had to be removed in order to make room for the buildings. Those saguaros were transplanted to form a circle at the entrance to the camp.

Over the past 80 years 10 of the 21 mature saguaros that make up the ring have died. By transplanting the saguaro from the adobe structure to the ring of saguaros, we have protected the structure while insuring the survival of the ring of saguaros. If the occasion should arise where another saguaro needs to be moved, the ring of saguaros will be there waiting for the new member to join their small community.


Last updated: May 16, 2019

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3693 S Old Spanish Trail
Tucson , AZ 85730


(520) 733-5153

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