2001: National Monument
About the SiteSonoran Desert National Monument contains an abundance of cultural resources, including evidence of ancient villages, campsites, rock art, and artifacts of the prehistoric Hohokam and other native peoples. In addition, there are trails that extend back in time hundreds or even thousands of years used by local peoples to collect salt and shells from the Gulf of California.
What You're Going to SeeLike other BLM-managed sites, the Sonoran Desert National Monument has no facilities and no central attraction; its purpose is mainly to protect the historic sites, native habitats, vegetation and wildlife, rather than attract visitors. There's plenty of back-country hiking available, but again, make sure you bring plenty of water and travel with someone. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearances are recommended (by the BLM and by me).
Personal ObservationsI grew up in the Sonoran Desert (okay, in a city surrounded by the desert), so what I saw here was nothing new. That's why I give it only one subbie. I was desperately looking for something good to say about it, but I come up short. Well, there are saguaros aplenty. Not much else. To be fair, I was driving through and didn't stop to smell the creosote, didn't look for birds, and it was the middle of a summer day, so the animals were hiding. Nevertheless, one subbie.
Getting ThereThe Sonoran Desert National Monument is in south central Arizona, 60 miles from Phoenix. Interstate 8 provides some access at the Vekol interchange (Exit 144) and the Freeman Interchange (Exit 140). State Highway 238 and the Maricopa Road afford access to the North Maricopa Mountains and the Butterfield Overland Stage Route. Exit 119 (Gila Bend) will take you to the road I described above.
Nearby AttractionsOrgan Pipe Cactus National Monument is about 60 miles to the southwest. Ironwood Forest National Monument is only about 35 miles to the southeast, and Saguaro National Park is only ten or twenty miles beyond that. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is about 50 miles due east, south of Phoenix. Hohokam Pima National Monument is in the general neighborhood, but since it's closed to visitors, it's exact location remains a mystery to me.