AZ traveling along route 77 takes you through awe-inspiring Navajo County

Our recent Arizona travels brought us to towering sandstone peaks, untouched Ponderosa pines,  and vast canyons that indulge your spirit.  Grab some adventure and enjoy these photos of Navajo County in Arizona.

State route 77 is an Arizona highway that stretches north from Holbrook to the south junction of I-10.

We ventured north on SR 77 towards Snowflake, AZ enabling us to enjoy the dazzling sites of Navajo County.

Navajo County in Arizona
our dogs love exploring the area

Navajo County is in northeastern Arizona.  The climate varies due to the diversity of the geographic area.  You will experience normal winter weather and delightful summers in the White Mountains.  On the other hand, the lower desert areas are warm with little or no snow.

Navajo County in Arizona
Salt River Canyon in Navajo County, AZ

Indian reservation land makes up approximately 66 percent of Navajo County, AZ.  The 2 main areas are divided by the Mogollon Rim.  North of the Rim is dry and desert like.   On the south side of the Mogollon Rim you will experience mountains and forests overflowing with pine and pinon juniper trees.   Navajo County has the largest continuous stand of Ponderosa Pines in all of North America.

Cedar Canyon in Navajo County, AZ
Cedar Canyon in Navajo County, AZ

Cedar Canyon Valley is in Long Tom Canyon.  Cedar Canyon is one of our regular stops when heading south on route 77.

White Mountains
The White Mountains in Arizona

It is common for people to think of a vast, open desert when describing AZ.  Surprisingly,  Arizona is a state of extremes when it comes to geography.  In the southeast, one can experience some of the hottest temperatures in the world.  A few hours north in the White Mountains of Navajo County, you will experience a true winter with significant snowfall.

Mogollon Rim
Ponderosa Pines view from the Mogollon Rim

When looking at a map of Arizona you will see a jagged ink line making its way across the state.  This giant escarpment of volcanic and sedimentary rock is called the Mogollon Rim, pronounced,  “muggy own“.

Full of beauty and mystery, the Mogollon Rim is surrounded by history that formed from erosion and movements in the earth.  When visiting Arizona it is worth a trip through Navajo County to experience the spectacular white cliffs of the uppermost sandstone stratum of the Mogollon Rim.  These windblown white vertical cliffs are 280 million years old, the Permian Period,  and 350 feet thick.  The thickest on earth.

Mogollon Rim
The Mogollon Rim in Arizona
Mogollon Rim
Pine Trees along the Mogollon Rim

In Navajo County you will also find the Petrified Forest National Park.  Fossil lovers will be thrilled to study the fallen trees that are dated to the late Triassic period, 225 million years ago.  

Petrified Tree
Petrified Forest National Park tree

Navajo County was formed on March 21, 1895 and includes Navajo, Hopi and Apache Indian reservations.

Native American celebration
Native American celebration in Navajo County Arizona

By the time it became Navajo County, the railroad had crossed the county for more than a decade, and North America’s third largest ranch, the Aztec Land and Cattle Company near Holbrook, had been established.

The Hopi Pueblo of Oraibi Indian Reservation is further south and one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the US.

Show Low Arizona
Show Low in Navajo County, Arizona

Ranching is a major portion of Navajo County’s economy along with coal mining, timber and tourism.  There was an uplifting of the soul as we rode past the curious horses.

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Giant Saguaro desert cactus – facts and photos

Within Arizona’s Tucson Basin is The Saguaro National Park.  This park provides the ideal conditions for sustaining dense stands of the famous saguaro cactus.

saguaro cactus at The Saguaro National Park
saguaro cactus at The Saguaro National Park in Tucson

**The most important factors for growth are water and temperature. If the elevation is too high, the cold weather and frost can kill the saguaro. Although the Sonoran Desert experiences both winter and summer rains, studies show that the Saguaro cactus obtains most of its moisture during the summer monsoon season.

Saguaro National Park
saguaro cactus in Arizona

There are dozens of varieties of cacti;  short, tall, stout, delicate but none quite as magnificent as the Giant Saguaro cactus.

Quick Saguaro Facts:

  1. Saguaros have one deep tap-root but most of this cactus’ roots are 4-6 inches deep and span out as far as the desert plant is tall.
  2. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the US.
  3. After the saguaro dies its woody ribs can be used to build roofs, fences, and parts of furniture.
  4. The Giant Saguaro can live to be 200 years old.

In the Sonoran desert the saguaro cactus has a boundless variety of towering armed shapes.

the saguaro cactus in arizona
the saguaro cactus species in AZ

Water makes up 75 to 95 percent of the saguaro cactus’ weight.  During periods of drought the pleats of the saguaro cactus contract.  During Arizona rains the saguaro expands as it soaks up moisture.

saguaro cactus with fruit
saguaro cactus close up

Saguaros, like many desert cacti, grow excruciatingly slow.  Arizona cactus experts estimate that a forty-foot tall saguaro is about 150 years old.  Arm buds begin to appear when the saguaro is 75 years old.

the saguaro arms
the saguaro arm buds

Many saguaros now standing in cactus forests germinated in the mid-1800s !!

saguaro cacti over 100 years old
saguaro cacti over 100 years old

To survive their early years, saguaro seedlings must be sheltered from the elements, whether it be under the canopy of other plants or in the crevices of rocky outcrops. Saguaro seeds can be deposited in droppings of birds roosting on branches of shrubs and trees.

nurse tree
young saguaro cacti under a nurse tree

Lightning, powerful winds, harsh winter freezes and the rotting of dead tissue kill saguaros.  Their woody ribs stay on the desert floor until they are consumed by termites or decay and return to the soil.

dead saguaro cactus wood
woody spine of the dead saguaro cactus

This cactus species is not currently listed as threatened or endangered. Arizona has strict regulations about the harvesting, collection or destruction of the saguaro cactus.

You can find the majestic giant cactus in southern Arizona and western Sonora, Mexica.

The Saguaro National Park

While traveling Arizona we stopped at Saguaro National Park, in Tucson.  The park is located in the Sonoran Desert.

Saguaro National Park in AZ
Saguaro National Park in AZ

The giant cacti, called Saguaros, are protected and preserved within the park.

The saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert
The saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert

After a single rainfall, Saguaros can soak up to 200 gallons of water through their huge network of roots that lay just 4-6 inches below the desert surface. That is enough water to last this giant cactus an entire year!

the saguaro expands with water
the saguaro expands with water

A saguaro expands like an accordion when it absorbs water which can increase its weight by up to a ton.

saguaro cactus white flowers in bloom
saguaro cactus white flowers in bloom

In 1931, The Saguaro’s Blossom became the Arizona State Flower.

The Saguaro Cactus blooms April through June. Its flowers are creamy white and numerous. Up to a hundred flowers can bloom on one Saguaro Cactus!

Saguaro Cactus Flowers
Saguaro Cactus fruits and blooms

The saguaro blossom opens after sunset and by the next afternoon the flower is wilted. The white cactus flower repeats itself night after night.   During the few hours the saguaro flower is open birds, bats, and  honeybees pollinate them.

saguaro red fruit
saguaro red fruit

Later in the summer, the cactus flowers that were pollinated will become red-fleshed saguaro fruits that are enjoyed by the local bird population. The saguaro cactus is also known as the pitahaya, sahuara and giant cactus.

Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park
trails at Saguaro National Park
trails at Saguaro National Park
nursing trees for saguaros
Palo Verde and Mesquite Trees are shelter for young Saguaros
nursing tree for saguaro cactus
nursing trees provide nitrogen for cactus

The Saguaro often begins life with a nurse tree or shrub which can provide shade and moisture for the germination of life. This Saguaro grows slowly — only about an inch a year — eventually becoming very tall;  reaching heights of 50 feet.  The largest saguaro cacti, with more than 5 arms, are approximately 200 years old.