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Alamo Canyon - Organ Pipe NM, AZ

Guide 16 Triplogs  1 Topic
  3.6 of 5 
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,251 feet
Elevation Gain 135 feet
Accumulated Gain 135 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.28
Interest Historic & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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63  2018-02-03 vanillagorilla
8  2017-02-22 rwstorm
30  2014-03-14 Randal_Schulhaus
11  2010-03-21 writelots
36  2010-03-21 tibber
24  2010-02-07 cabel
5  2010-02-06
Arch Canyon - Organ Pipe NM
19  2010-01-23 Randal_Schulhaus
Page 1,  2
Author Randal_Schulhauser
author avatar Guides 71
Routes 98
Photos 9,967
Trips 1,009 map ( 9,248 miles )
Age 61 Male Gender
Location Ahwatukee, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jan, Dec, Feb, Mar → Any
Seasons   Late Winter to Early Spring
Sun  5:45am - 7:30pm
Official Route
1 Alternative

Remember the Alamo!
by Randal_Schulhauser

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Some History: On a recent trip to Organ Pipe National Monument, our "Plan A" objective was to check out Puerto Blanco Drive. This 50-mile loop drive to the west of Hwy 85 appears in many 4WD Arizona Guides. Unfortunately, it has been closed for at least five years (I don't know if this is in response to the death of Ranger Kris Eggle - "Kris Eggle was shot and killed in the line of duty at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, on August 9, 2002, while pursuing members of a drug cartel hit squad who fled into the United States after committing a string of murders in Mexico. He was 28 years old."). The visitor's center is now named in honor of Ranger Kris Eggle.

Always having a "Plan B", we decided to check out Alamo Canyon. "Alamo" means "cottonwood" in Spanish. The presence of cottonwood trees is always an indicator of a nearby permanent water source. Early southwest homesteaders used these trees as a general indicator of land ranching potential. Bill and Birdie Miller came to the Sonoran Desert to homestead in the early 1900s. Substantial stands of cottonwood trees combined with flowing water in the upper reaches of Alamo Canyon convinced the Millers that this would be a successful location for their homestead ranch.

Their first structure was built of adobe and was soon replaced by a brick structure in the late 1920s. The corrals were built further upstream in the early 1930s. The concrete cattle trough is inscribed with the date "1935".

Later, the Robert L. Gray family purchased the Alamo Ranch, adding to their extensive holdings within the Organ Pipe boundary. All ranching within the national monument came to an end in the mid-1970s with the death of the Gray brothers, Bobby and Henry. Evidence of this ranching history can still be traced within Alamo Canyon and Bull Pasture.

Grinding holes used by Native Americans predate the homesteaders. These can be located in the slickrock along the Alamo Wash. A cluster of grinding holes exists near the corral remains.

The Hike: The Alamo Canyon trail head has parking for half a dozen vehicles near the primitive campsites and pit toilet. There is no water available at the trail head. On this particular day the only other vehicle at the trail head was manned by the local Border Patrol. The trail dips immediately into the Alamo Wash and joins the old double-track leading to the ranch ruins. The Ajo Range frames your view. Lush stands of organ pipe cacti line the trail like sentinels.

As you walk the trail your ears become attuned with nature. You pick out the songs of various birds. You hear the water trickling in the nearby brook . You hear no sounds of civilization - bliss...

After trekking a little under a mile, you happen upon the remains of the Alamo Ranch House . This was originally constructed in the late '20s by the homesteading Miller family. You can also find evidence of an adobe foundation on the west side of the structure. This was the first Miller house built near the turn of the century.

Continue upstream about 100 yards crossing over to the south side. You soon see the corral . The concrete cattle trough dates the remains with a cornerstone indicating "1935". Evidence of this past inhabitation is furthered when you happen upon some trash dumps .

When you leave the old corrals and head back into Alamo Wash, there is a large slickrock area. You'll notice a dry wash heading to the north. We elect to continue east following the flowing stream. You'll notice grinding holes in some of the exposed slickrock. I'm not sure how old these grinding holes are.

We head upstream about a quarter-mile from the corral before turning around. It is possible to continue off-trail from here but elected to head back.

Summary: The Alamo Canyon Trail is an unexpected gem within the Organ Pipe National Monument. I'll go so far as to state the best examples of organ pipe cacti are located along this trail. Enjoy!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2008-02-14 Randal_Schulhauser

    Organ Pipe Cactus NM NPS Details
    10/24/08 Ranger Vivian Sartori writes: We have never found any evidence of cottonwoods in Alamo Canyon. How the canyon was so named is a bit of a mystery. The nearest cottonwoods are at Quitobaquito, 30 raven-miles away.
    WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

    Permit $$

    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
    $8 fee per car for a 7 day pass. Backpacking and backcountry camping is not allowed at this time due to an increase in illegal border activity.. Camping is available in the two designated campgrounds only.

    Map Drive
    FR / Jeep Road - Car possible when dry

    To hike
    From Phoenix,
    Take I-10 east towards Tucson. Turn right at exit 164 for Hwy 347 (aka Queen Creek Road) and travel south 15 miles towards the town of Maricopa. Turn right at the Hwy 238 (aka Maricopa Road) intersection and travel 40 miles towards the town of Gila Bend. Travel west on Hwy 85 through the town of Gila Bend and continue along Hwy 85 south towards the Mexican border. You will pass through the mining town of Ajo (42 miles south of Gila Bend) and Why (11 miles south of Ajo) before reaching the Organ Pipe National Monument Visitor's Center (22 miles south of Why).

    Obtain the necessary permit from the Kris Eggle Visitor's Center and retrace your path 9.8 miles north on Hwy 85 until you reach Alamo Canyon Road. There is no signage at this intersection. For visual reference, you crest over a hill on Hwy 85 with steel guardrails on both sides as you cross over Alamo Wash. When the steel guardrails end, you'll see a gravel road heading east - this is Alamo Canyon Road. Travel 3 miles east along Alamo Canyon Road to the trailhead. The turn off for Alamo Canyon Rd is between mile marker 65 and 66. There is a pit toilet and half a dozen campsites at the trailhead.

    GPS coordinates for the intersection of Alamo Canyon Road and Hwy 85 are 32o 05.483'N, 112o 46.482'W. GPS coordinates for the trailhead at the end of Alamo Canyon Road are 32o 04.318'N, 112o 43.733'W. My GPS noted 152 miles traveled from my Ahwatukee home to the trailhead. Travel time was just under 3 hours.
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