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Picacho Peak Locator Map

Elevation 2,000 feet   Fees

Contact the Park:
(520) 466-3183
Picacho Peak SP
P.O. Box 907
Eloy, AZ 85131
I-10 Exit 219


Visitor Center Restrooms Gift Shop Group: Day Use Areas Group: Camping Sites Camping Electric RV Sites Non Electric RV Sites Dump Station Showers Picnic Areas/Shelters Hiking Trails Wildlife Viewing

Nearest Services: 1 mile

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511 Speed Code

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Park's Speed Code: 4232#


Park Entrance Fees:
Per Vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
Individual/Bicycle: $3.00

Camping Fees:
Electric site: $30
Group Area (Non- Electric site): $15

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Feature StoryRelocating Giant Saguaros

by Carolin Miller, Park Ranger

Saguora CactusConstruction of a new Visitor Center at Picacho Peak finally kicked in the summer of 2008. Of course, before great things could start happening, the designated site had to be prepared for the task. It all started with site clearing and the demolition of the old Contact Station. As much of any existing materials as possible will be saved and/or reused. Roofing beams from the old building will be replacing portions of old and rotted-out beams at ramadas of similar build in the park. Wooden road barriers will be used to fill in gaps along the entrance road where occasional unfortunate drivers have left the roadway and broken through the old barriers. Even the asphalt of the old road surface was ground up and saved rather than taken to the dump. It will undergo a process of reconstitution and will be used for repaving the roadway and the new parking lot.

Saguora Cactus

The site preparation also required the more gentle and tedious task of saving some of the natural vegetation that had been growing undisturbed around the contact station for decades. Many of the plants were relocated within the park and thus spared from a certain death by dozer. While one might have little doubt that a small Hedgehog or Barrel cactus could be dug up and replanted, it might take some imagination to see the same happening to a 25-foot saguaro. However, the process is remarkably simple and the success rates are noteworthy. All it takes is the right equipment.

One early attempt to have saguaros commercially relocated is attributed to Howard Hughes. He had saguaros from the Arizona desert loaded onto trucks and shipped to his ranch in California for landscaping purposes. To cushion the ride for the saguaros, the truck beds were lined with mattresses.

Saguora Cactus

The technology has since been refined, but to haul these surprisingly fragile plants without damaging them is still a challenge. The trucks that are being used today have customwelded beams and braces and hydraulic lifts. They are the crucial element in the safe moving of a giant plant that has possibly lived for over a century and can weigh up to 6 tons.

Before the removal of the saguaro from its location can begin, the top of the cactus is secured to the beam lift structure with thick foam pads and straps for stability. In rocky soil and caliche, the radial roots of the saguaro normally grow very shallow (only a few inches deep), but can grow as far out from the plant as the plant itself is tall. There is generally only a short taproot, however, in very sandy soil, the taproot can reach as far down as 6 feet. Surprisingly enough, only a very small portion of the roots needs to be dug up during the relocation.

Saguora Cactus

Once a circle of about 2 feet all around the foot of the saguaro is exposed, all the roots are cut back to within about 18 inches of the stem. The roots will start growing back from mere stumps within a few weeks if they are cleanly cut with a saw rather than bluntly chopped with an ax. More padding and straps are added at the lower portion of the stem, and once the saguaro is no longer attached to the ground, it can be hoisted out of the hole. The lift mechanism then moves the saguaro into an almost horizontal position. The trimmed roots are treated with pruning sealer to avoid fungus growth and rot. The plant is now ready to be transported to its new destination.

Saguora Cactus

The sequence is then reversed. The saguaro is lowered into the pre-dug hole and a special mix of sandy soil laced with a few secret ingredients (fertilizer and pesticide are among them) is used to fill the hole. The soil around the plant is being worked with digging bars. For stability, the saguaro is buried a little deeper into the soil than it was at its old location. Soft sand around the foot for good water drainage prevents rotting and also ensures that sharp rocks do not penetrate the relatively soft green outer skin. A little extra watering later on, and the plant will soon be securely held in place by a widespread web of roots. Numerous saguaros of various sizes as well as many Barrel and Hedgehog cacti have been permanently relocated from the construction site to new destinations within the park.

See List of other Feature Stories (Index)

The views, conclusions, findings and opinions expressed in this Feature Story are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Arizona State Parks, the Arizona State Parks Board, or the government of Arizona.

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