It is a forest of kings, a desert filled with giants. This is the home of a regional icon that has appeared as a symbol for both a state and as a star of westerns on the silver screen. It shares a name with a prominent American industrialist and towers over its terrain just as mighty as any robber baron or titan of industry. A giver of life and beauty, it unveils its mysteries in the night. Its mythology, like its name, has been passed down throughout the generations making it a true legend of the Southwest. This symbol is not man nor beast but can be considered the king of the Southwest regardless. This is the mighty saguaro cactus, and there is no better place to view this stalwart of the Sonoran Desert than in Arizona's Saguaro National Park.
Named for the Carnegiea gigantea or the saguaro, this national park is famous for being home to the largest cactus in the world. The saguaro is both a living plant, a habitat and historically a source of fruit and water in the dry desert. While the iconic cactus is the park’s namesake and most famous resident, it is far from the only thing to see here. Desert tortoises, gila monsters and javelinas roam the parklands. Native tribes, Spanish explorers, miners, ranchers, homesteaders, CCC workers, and scientists have all called this area home. Saguaro has long beckoned travelers to visit the king of the cacti in his own domain.
Amid the remains of ancient forests and ancient peoples are more modern ruins - towns, cars and railroads abandoned by those who attempted to make their life out in this unforgiving but beautiful landscape. While the desert and fossils here date back hundreds of millions of years, this area only became a national park in the 1960s. It took several attempts by various presidents to turn this area into a national park. It took more than 65 years of campaigning for Petrified Forest to attain national park status and was the only national park created under the presidency of John F. Kennedy. The second of the three national parks in Arizona, every new discovery here proves that Petrified Forest National Park is a national treasure.
Much like the story of how the canyon was formed, the story of how the Grand Canyon became a national park is a long one, full of twists and turns. The story of this national park involves three presidents, and nearly 40 years of unsuccessful campaigning in Congress and elsewhere. The dazzling colors and scenic views of the canyon have inspired art, architecture and literature. It has become a symbol of America and it’s natural wonders. Teddy Roosevelt once called the canyon “the one sight which every American should see.” Grand is more than just a testament to the size of the canyon; it is the canyon’s legacy.
While the desert won out over many emigrants who came West seeking their fortune. There is even an entire county in Arizona that seems to have more ghost towns than thriving communities. These sites slowly wasting away in the wilds are a true testament to the courageous spirit of those who sought to tame the wild west.
Agua Caliente - The Hot Waters
When white settlers came to the area, the native secret was out. In 1858, the Flap-Jack Ranch was established six miles away from the hot springs along the Gila River and became a stagecoach station on the Butterfield Overland Mail, which took mail and people from San Francisco to St. Louis and Memphis. This ranch was a major stop on the way to Ft. Yuma. By 1862, the ranch had been renamed Grinnel's Ranch.
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