Named for the saguaro cactus, Saguaro National Park is located outside of Tucson, Arizona, and is home to a variety of species of plants and animals. The park was designated as a protected wilderness area in 1975 and is now managed by the US National Park Service. Visitors to the park can hike, camp, bird watch and enjoy other wildlife. Saguaro National Park is one of the largest habitats in the US for the saguaro cactus.
Saguaro National Park has a varied terrain, which includes the Rincon and Tucson mountains. It is also part of the Sonoran Desert, which covers major portions of Arizona and some of Mexico. The Sonoran Desert is one of the largest deserts in the US and is richly populated with wildlife.
In addition to the giant saguaro cactus, which is a symbol of the American West, the Saguaro National Park of over 91,000 acres has numerous varieties of plants and animals. Approximately 60 species of mammals, 350 species of birds, and 100 species of reptiles reside in the park. A nearby area is one of the only remaining habitats for jaguars in the US. Other common wildlife includes jackrabbits, quail, roadrunners and desert tortoises.
Over 70,000 acres of Saguaro National Park were designated as a wilderness area in 1976. A wilderness area is a tract of land dedicated by the US government to preserve clean water, natural habitats and endangered species. In 1994 the area achieved federal park status and is now managed by the US National Park Service.
Park activities include hiking, camping, bird watching and guided walking tours. Curriculum materials about geography, wildlife and Native American culture are available for school field trips. In winter the temperature averages about 65°F (19°C) during the day and 40°F (5°C) at night, making it a popular winter destination. Summer daytime temperatures exceed 105°F (41°C) in the shade with an average of 72°F (22deg;C) at night.
Officials of Saguaro National Park conduct a census of the saguaro cactus every ten years. This symbol of the American West is vital to the ecosystem of Saguaro National Park. The saguaro cactus is long-lived and not an endangered species. It is also not susceptible to plant disease. The biggest threat to the saguaro cactus population is the encroachment of humans as the population of Arizona expands.
Woodpeckers, purple martins, finches and even owls nest in the cactus and eat the insects that live there. Bats feed off the nectar and pollen of the saguaro flower, which is the official state flower of Arizona. Saguaro fruit was harvested by native Americans and made into jam, syrup and wine.