Everybody's National Parks | ENP 15.4 Saguaro: Symbol of the American West
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  • ENP 15.4 Saguaro: Symbol of the American West
    Saguaro cacti at sunset
    Saguaro National Park plaque with cacti in backgroundPhoto: This is what the ocotillo cactus fence from the Freeman Homestead looks like today.
    Discussion includes the following:
    • Ranger Jeff Walner shares his background with Saguaro National Park (3:21)
    • Jeff describes how immigrants led to the unique western ranching culture and history of Saguaro National Park. (4:46)
    • Jeff describes the rise of traditional “cowboy” within Saguaro National Park (6:10)
    • Jeff explains the impact of the arrival of the railroad in Tucson, Arizona (8:03)
    • How did the mix of Mexican, Native American, and American culture influence cowboy culture in Arizona? (9:01)
    • We learn what exactly the cattle were grazing out in the desert (11:04)
    • How did the homesteaders using the lands of the Saguaro National Park live, build, and survive? (13:42)
    • The origins of how homesteader generosity eventually gave us the gift of Saguaro National Park (16:15)
    • Is there any truth to Hollywood’s depiction of John Wayne’s iconic feats using the Saguaro and barrel cacti?
    • How does Hollywood and pop culture fit within the Sonoran desert and Saguaro National Park? (21:56)
    • How Hollywood, Peanuts, and pop culture helped make the Saguaro cactus iconic throughout the world (22:26)
    • How people view the symbol of the Saguaro differently. (24:12)
    • Why is Saguaro National Park significant to American and Native American culture? (25:23)
    • Jeff’s favorite story from Saguaro National Park. (27:35)
    Saguaro National Park plaque with information on Desert HomesPhoto: Saguaro National Park plaque with information on Desert Homes

    Tips for your Travels:
    • Pair the following tips with the sample itineraries from our recent family adventure to make the most of your Saguaro National Park visit:
    • Always check the weather!
      • If you come during the summer for the biodiversity, be wary of the heat!
    • Allow for extended time to complete more challenging “elevation” hikes in Saguaro.
    • Carry more water than you think you need!
    • If traveling in the summer, map your hikes so you finish early - before 9am! - and save trips to visitors centers for midday when the temperatures climb
    • Winter is an amazing time for backcountry camping
    • November through April are the busiest months and parking is limited so consider coming later in the day and plan sunset hikes
    • Leave your pets at home as encounters with wildlife can be deadly
    • Loop drives offer great views with pull-offs for picnicking and trails for quick hikes
    • The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a short drive from the park and features historic collections, live plants, and desert animals such as the javelina in a zoo-like setting

    • Visit Saguaro National Park for more information.
    • Review the park’s safety guidelines especially when visiting in hotter months.
    • For the life of the workers on large area ranches, read Patricia Preciado Martin's oral history books: Beloved Land and Images and Conversations. The latter has reminiscences of Frank Escalante, well-known as a cowboy/vaquero in the Rincon valley and mountains.
    • The Tanque Verde Guest Ranch, adjacent to Saguaro East, has a history that is unpublished. You may see their website for a highly rated "dude ranch" that still hires "cowboys" and is a park concessionaire.
    • Become a Patron to continue our great journey through these beautiful parks.
    • Make sure to listen to the previous episode on Saguaro National Park for more great information.
    • Explore more adventures through beautiful parks.
    • Contact us to tell us about your family adventures or ask a question.