Gila Bend, Arizona

We loved exploring the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) area in the North Maricopa Mountains Wilderness, part of the Sonoran Desert National Recreation Area.

Tall Saguaro cactus!

We bounced along a dusty rugged 4WD road to get to the trailhead for Margie’s Cove, spotting a roadrunner on the way, and crossing a number of dry washes. The saguaro cactus dominated the landscape, along with some mesquite and creosote bushes. Recent rains started flowers blooming…

…and we spotted gray fox, jackrabbits, kangaroo rats, butterflies, hummingbirds, cactus wrens, and lizards.

There were remnants of past ranching activity, but the area is protected now. Cattle can be rough on the saguaros! Saguaros are very slow growing plants, taking up to 10 years to grow to just one inch, and 70 years to reach six or more feet in height. The pleats in their skin allow for expansion when there’s ample water, and they have a strong skeleton of wood – which you can see from the remains of this dead saguaro.

Saguaros can sprout arms when they are over 50 years old, with the same kind of wood structure underneath.

These cactus grow to 40 feet in height, and they can live for 150-200 years. They’re magnificent! Other types of cactus dotted the landscape such as cholla and fishhook barrel cactus – some with fruit.

Margie’s Cove Trail landscape

Another interesting BLM site in the area was the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, a place of significance for local native people. The petroglyphs were made by the Hohokam people between 350-1400 AD, and this site has over 800 distinct glyphs. The overall site isn’t very big – the trail around the rocks is only 1/4 mile, so it’s interesting that there are so many concentrated here. There are other petroglyph sites in the region, but none have as many as this one.


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