Arizona: The Ruins, a Mission, and a National Park

The Casa Grande Ruins, Mission San Xavier del Bac, and Saguaro National Park.

Casa Grande was built in the early 14th century. Start out at the Visitors Center before you enter the ruins. Don’t miss the ball court and two platform mounds, which is said to date from the 1100s.

With elements of Spanish, baroque, and Moorish architectural styles, San Xavier del Bac was founded in 1692 by Father Eusebio Francisco Kino.

You can hike, bike, or drive through the Saguaro National Park. Pack your lunch [there’s no food service] and bring plenty of water.

Casa Grande Ruins

Located in Arizona, Casa Grande was built by the ancient Sonoran Desert people. Built around 1350 C.E., these are the largest prehistoric structures ever built in North America. The steel structure protecting the Casa Grande was completed in 1932.

Casa Grande Ruins

Mary Hemenway financed the Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition from 1887 to 1888, which led to the preservation and establishment of the Casa Grande Ruins. Every two years under the supervision of an archeologist, staff and volunteers apply a thin layer of protective coating on the ruins.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

San Xavier del Bac is a Spanish Catholic Mission that was founded by Padre Eusebio Kino in 1692. The mission is considered to be the oldest European structure in Arizona. Southern Arizona was part of the New Spain. After Mexican Independence, San Xavier del Bac became part of Mexico. With the 1854 Gadsden Purchase, the mission was put inside the United States.

San Xavier del Bac

San Xavier del Bac is constructed of low-fire clay brick, stone and lime mortar. The architect was Ignacio Gaona. The church contains numerous references to the Franciscan cord. The shell, a symbol of pilgrimage, is replicated all through the structure. [Photo by MM]

San Xavier del Bac

San Xavier del Bac incorporates Byzantine, Moorish, and Mexican Renaissance architectural styles. The interior walls are covered with murals. A statue of St. Francis Xavier is in a glass sarcophagus. Note: If you climb the small hill to the east, you will see a replica of the famous grotto in Lourdes, France. [Photo by MM]

Saguaro National Park

A symbol of the American west, the giant saguaro are protected by the Saguaro National Park. A drive through the park gives you the opportunity to see these enormous cacti. There are several trails in the park. [Photo by MM]

Saguaro National Park

There is a an entrance fee for admission to the Saguaro National Park. This fee is good for seven days. A $10 Weekly Pass admits a single, private, non-commercial vehicle or motorcycle and all its passengers. A $5 Weekly Pass admits one individual when entering by foot or bicycle. Note: There is no entrance fee for Individuals 15 years or younger.

Saguaro National Park

The lower elevations of the Saguaro National Park encompass Sonoran Desert vegetation. The higher elevations contains desert scrub and desert grassland. Common wildlife in this area include the desert tortoise, coyote, and Gambel’s quail.

Saguaro National Park

In the last days of his presidency, Herbert Hoover signed a Proclamation [March 1, 1933] establishing Saguaro National Monument. Saguaro National Park is composed of two districts: 1) Rincon Mountain District and 2) Tucson Mountain District. The cacti are protected by state and federal laws.

Saguaro National Park

According to the U.S. National Park Service, "the average life span of a saguaro cactus is 150 years, but some plants may live more than 200 years. A 20 foot tall saguaro weighs approximately 1 ton (2000 pounds)."

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park offers guided walks and informative talks. The winter season—November through March—is busy. The interpretive programs vary from easy strolls to strenuous hikes. Carry water. Wear a hat. [Photo by MM]

Saguaro National Park

No camera or image filters but it's sunset at the Saguaro National Park. [Photo by MM]

Saguaro National Park

March and April are the best months to view wildflowers in the Saguaro National Park. In late April, the Saguaro begins to bloom and by June the fruits begin to ripen. You can bike around scenic loop drives to enjoy the park: a) Cactus Forest Loop Drive is an 8-mile paved loop, and b) Bajada Loop Drive is a 6-mile gravel loop. [Photo by MM]