A Saguaro National Park Adventure / Tucson, Arizona

One key fact visitors to Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona should know is that this magnificent park is divided into two districts. The Rincon Mountain District is located to the East of Tucson and the Tucson Mountain District is located to the West of Tucson. The park is located in Pima County in southeastern Arizona.

saguaro national park cactusIf you want to enjoy the tranquil Sonoran desert landscape and capture some one of a kind photos, Saguaro National Park with it’s 150 square miles of mountains and desert scrub  is a must stop.

West Saguaro National Park is a great drive with a few small trails to explore. We recommend that you do want to stop at the visitor center because you’ll learn quite a lot about the park, the cacti you’ll see close up and view maps of the various walking trails available. For those that want to simply drive and admire the thousands of cacti, you can simply drive through the west district free of charge.

The park’s official history goes back to 1933 when the Saguaro National Monument was created. The western section of the park was recognized in 1937. The entire area (both sections) was named a national park in 1974.

arizona cactus photosLarge Variety of Cactus

Visitors to Saguaro National Park will see familiar cactus varieties such as the saguaro, barrel and prickly pear. What you may not have realized the park is home to 25 less-common species including the Bisbee beehive cactus, the rainbow cactus and the exotic night-blooming cereus. The desert and terrain at the park provide the perfect environment for these species to thrive.

The sagauro, which grow slowly from seed, never from cuttings like the prickly pear. is supported by a ribbed woody like skeleton. There are other cactus varieties that also leave behind skeletons. The skeleton expands and allows the cactus to hold moisture which of course is critical to it’s survival. Native Americans used the saguaro ‘ribs’ to build roofs and walls. They also consumed the fruit of the cactus. They achieved this by using large poles to knock the fruit off the cactus.

As a side note, the cacti in Arizona are very special and they represent the state of Arizona in many ways. In fact it is a symbol of the west. Because of this, it’s against the law in Arizona to harm a saguaro cactus. If you own land in the state, landowners need a special permit for any construction that will affect a living plant. 

The Saguaro and Wildlife

The saguaro cactus is important to many species of wildlife. There are literally dozens of animal species that depend on the saguaro and for many reasons. Some wildlife such as insects, birds and mammals dine on it’s fruits and flowers. Other animals such as bobcats make homes in the cacti’s arms. You will also notice with mature plants that woodpeckers and others carve out the cacti’s arms to build nests in.

See additional Trips Into History articles found on the links below..

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As mentioned above, the drives through both sections of Saguaro National Park are scenic. The roads are open from 7A to sunset. The drive in Saguaro National Park East is a paved eight mile one way loop and the drive in Saguaro National Park West has several routes.’

arizona national park photosWhen we first visited Saguaro National Park our first impression was that this park is unique indeed. We think you’ll also have the same impression during your first visit. Picturesque photo opportunities are almost endless due to not only the cacti but also to the scenic mountains and desert landscape.

Reference material for this article includes…The National Park Service..Desert Giant : The World of the Saguaro Cactus by Barbara Bash…Cacti and Succulents Handbook by Gideon F. Smith.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

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tucson arizona national park

Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado is home to some of the most scenic national parks in all of the western U.S. The size of the park is 415 square miles and is one of the most visited of all national parks. It’s estimated that some three million people visit Rocky Mountain National Park annually.

Rocky Mountain National Park was officially founded in 1915. It grew in size over the years with various parcels of land added. The park was long in the making and involved many groups of proponents and grew in popularity as better roads were constructed.

The park is not only quite beautiful but it’s also diverse. See majestic mountain peaks, Bear Lake and streams and don’t be surprised at all to see herds of elk. In fact, wildlife is very abundant in the park’s valleys. There are in excess of 100 mountain peaks within the park that are over 11,000 feet high with Longs Peak at 14,259 feet. You’ll be able to take in extraordinary views in every direction. The park is open 365 days per year and you’ll find activities geared for all seasons.

One of the Best National Parks to Hike

Many say that hiking is the number one activity for people enjoying Rocky Mountain National Park. There are numerous trails for people of all hiking abilities. Easy, moderate and challenging. They can all be found within the park’s boundaries. There are a total of 355 hiking trails in the park so you’re sure to find one or more to your liking.

The visitor’s center can provide plenty of information and advice on recommended trails depending on skill level and/or if you’re hiking with children. There are also free ranger led walks that can increase your confidence while you learn more about the park. Stopping off at the visitor’s center is a must to obtain directions, maps, etc.

Winter hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park is fun but does have it’s challenges. Winter brings short days with strong winds, low temperatures, and weather conditions can change fast. There can be deep snow at the park, particularly on the west side. Ford those not equipped with cross country skis or snow shoes, trails below 8,700 feet elevation offer the best opportunities. For current trail conditions and general park information check out website www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit

Scenic Driving Routes

The automobile routes through the park take you through several ecosystems and as you can imagine offer some great photo opportunities. The roads will take you through lowland meadows, aspen groves, along swift-flowing rivers and up through sub alpine forests to more than 12,000 feet in elevation. These are some of the best scenic drives you’ll find in Colorado.

The National Park Service describes Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park’s heavily traveled 46 mile long highway to the sky as follows…”It is hard to describe what a sensation this new road is going to make,” predicted Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service, in 1931 during the road’s construction. “You will have the whole sweep of the Rockies before you in all directions.” At all elevations, the drive on Trail Ridge Road is an adventure. Plan at least a half day for the trip.

The Peak to Peak Highway, an official Scenic Byway, offers spectacular views of snow-capped mountain peaks along the Continental Divide and access to historical mining communities with architecture from the late 1800s. There are scenic drives in the Rocky Mountain National Park that you will not find anywhere else.

See additional Trips Into History articles found on the links below..

Visit the Old West Town of Las Vegas, NM

See the Preserved Wagon Ruts on the Old Santa Fe Trail

We have highlighted hiking and scenic drives through Rocky Mountain National Park, but as you can imagine this is only two of the fun activities at this unique park.

Camping, fishing, picnicking, wildlife watching, birding, horseback riding, wildflower viewing, shops, exhibits, planned park activities are all waiting for you at Rocky Mountain National Park. For detailed information you may want to visit website..www.visitestespark.com/rocky-mountain-national-park/

(Article and Photos copyright Trips Into History)


The St. Louis Gateway Arch / Jefferson National Expansion Memorial


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The Gateway Arch from the banks of the Mississippi River

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri is one of the most fascinating monuments in the world. It is the tallest man made monument in the United States and attracts more than four million visitors a year. If your travels take you to St. Louis this is an adventure you don’t want to miss.

The Gateway Arch commemorates the role that St. Louis played in the Westward Expansion of the United States during the 1800’s.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial is comprised of the Gateway Arch and St. Louis’ Old Courthouse. The park is a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s role in opening the West, to the pioneers who helped shape its history, and to Dred Scott who sued for his freedom in the Old Courthouse adjacent to the Arch.  The memorial also honors Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase of which St. Louis was a part.

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View from underneath Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch Construction

The architect of the 630 foot stainless steel arch was Eero Saarinen.

From 1947-1948, St. Luois officials held a design competition for the monument. Eero Saarinen’s arch design won and construction began on Feb. 12, 1963. The arch was completed on Oct. 28, 1965. The total cost of construction of the Arch came in under $15 million.

The Arch has foundations sunk 60 feet into the ground, and is built to withstand earthquakes and high winds. It’s calculated that the Arch sways up to 1 inch in a 20 mph wind, and is built to sway up to 18 inches.

When you visit the Gateway Arch you’ll have an opportunity to see a film of the actual construction from start to finish. It’s an amazing thing to watch since construction went up in sections on both sides with the goal of joining exactly at the top.

A Grand Staircase leads from the St. Louis levee up to the base of the Gateway Arch.

Getting to the Top of the Gateway Arch

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Looking up the stainless steel sections of the Gateway Arch

Visitors are transported to the viewing room at the top of the Arch in elevator capsules. You could actually describe it as being an elevator/tram. According to the National Park Service, the trams are a one-of-a-kind invention, conceived in just two short weeks by an amazing man who never received a college degree. His name was Dick Bowser. Believe it or not, there were several ways considered to transport visitors to the top. These included regular elevators, escalators and even a Ferris Wheel.

The elevator/tram system in place takes four minutes to go from bottom to top. Each trip up and down consists of eight capsules or pods that each seat up to five people and are five feet in diameter. Each pod has a small window where you can observe the interior of the Arch as the tram travels. Because the Arch curves and is not a straight up and down, each capsule rotates approximately 155 degrees during the trip to the top of the Arch. It’s a fun four minute journey and is certainly unique.

The Viewing Room at the Top

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Viewing room at very top of the Arch with small windows.

Once at the top visitors may stay as long as they like in the observation area, which features 16 windows looking east over the Mississippi River and the Illinois communities and countryside, and 16 windows looking west over the city of St. Louis.

The views are absolutely amazing through the relatively small 7 inch x 27 inch windows.

Museum of The Gateway Arch

Underneath the Arch and under the ground floor you’ll find the Museum of The Gateway Arch. Visiting the museum lets you trace the story of the Native Americans, explorers, pioneers, and rebels who made America possible. Featuring six themed exhibit areas, this innovative and interactive museum celebrates America’s pioneering spirit.

The Old Courthouse

The original courthouse was constructed of brick in the Federal style of architecture and completed in 1828. The population of St. Louis grew three fold during this period due to the booming fur trade, and the courthouse was outgrown ten years after it opened. A second courthouse was designed by architect Henry Singleton, which incorporated the original courthouse as the east wing of the building.

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The Old Courthouse

The Old Courthouse in St. Louis was used to hear the Dred Scott Case of 1847. The case centered on slavery and whether a slave (Dred Scott and his slave wife) would still be slaves if his or her owner took them to a non-slave state. The case went through the courts for about eleven years. The U.S. Supreme Court ended up ruling against the Scotts.

The Old Courthouse was used for various non-judicial purposes after St. Louis built another larger courthouse due to population growth. The French family who originally donated the land for courthouse use sued to have the land given back because it wasn’t being used for the intended purpose. They lost the suit and the land was given to the Federal government.

The National Park Service began preservation of the Old Courthouse following its incorporation into Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Additional restoration occurred in 1955.

See more articles from Trips Into History  found on the links below…

Historic Carthage Missouri

Historic Union Station in St. Louis Missouri

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The city of St. Louis, MO from atop the Gateway Arch

So Much to See and Do at The Gateway Arch National Park

Enjoy a tram ride up to the top of the Arch…experience amazing views of the Mississippi River, Illinois and the City of St Louis…learn how the Gateway Arch was constructed…visit the Gateway Arch Museum…visit the the historic Old Courthouse and while you’re along the Mississippi River enjoy a steamboat ride that will show you many historic landmarks along the river bank.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)