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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monumentphoto of colored clouds behind an organ pipe cactus during sunrise
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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Your Safety
A look at the Ajo mountains
The desert wilderness is scenic, wonderful, and well-worth protecting.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is an attractive place, and not just for its scenery. Every year thousands of people are attracted to this remote location for its apparent ease with which they can illegally enter the USA. Away from the development at Lukeville, the remoteness of our international boundary is impossible to effectively patrol. Under the cover of darkness, this line becomes a freeway filled with illegal foot and vehicle traffic.

Not all visitors are legal:
They come from Latin America, Asia, the Middle-East, and the rest of the world.  They come for a variety of reasons - to find work, to escape persecution, to avoid scrutiny of immigration, to bring illegal drugs to an insatiable American market, or to infiltrate mainstream "American" culture.

At sea in the desert:
Most immigrants are unprepared for the rigors of crossing the Sonoran Desert.  They carry a few possessions, a little food, and even less water.  They are unaware they are crossing a national monument, a place dedicated to preservation for present and future generations. They may be unsure of the exact route, and merely follow the footsteps of others.  As a result, the monument's wilderness is laced with hundreds of miles of unofficial roads and trails.

photo of trash in the wilderness
Migrants will often discard in the desert what they no longer need for their journey north.

Monumental Damage:
these routes are usually lined with empty water jugs and other discarded items.  Immigrants frequently rest or camp in the most desirable places, under trees.  The very same places where cactus seedlings germinate.  Immigrants collect wood and build small cooking fires. These fires also cook shallow cactus roots.  Trash heaps at these sites are not only unsightly, but are unsanitary and attract a variety of scavenger wildlife.  Nearby water sources are often so fouled by pollution that wildlife can no longer use them.  Some overnight rest stops are so heavily used that the damage is irreparable.  During the rainy seasons, vehicle routes become avenues for floodwaters, further increasing the resource damage

Potential Danger:
As a result of illegal immigrants crossing out borders, other unlawful acts do occur within the monument.  Some of the illegals are armed, dangerous, and determined to complete the trip at any cost.  Most often these few are smugglers and drug runners.  They may drive a stolen vehicle or they may hire human "mules" to carry their contraband in homemade backpacks.  Other illegals may be opportunistic, not intending harm, but the struggle is long and the temptations are numerous. Though most criminals operate after dark and in remote areas of the park, they have been apprehended in areas frequented by visitors.

Be Aware, Be Safe

  • Remember that cell phone service is usually out of range within Monument boundaries.
  • Know where you are at all times, follow good safety procedures and use common sense when making decisions.
  • Do not pick-up hitch hikers
  • Keep valuables, including spare change, out of sight and lock your vehicle
  • Avoid traveling in well-marked but unofficial "trails"
  • Avoid hiking or camping in areas of major border activity.  Monument staff can help you plan backcountry travel in safer areas.
  • People in distress may ask for food, water or other assistance.  Use good judgment in providing water, provide nothing else.  Report the location of the distressed people to the Kris Eggle Visitor Center, other park staff,  or the Border Patrol.
  • Report ANY suspicious behavior to park staff or Border Patrol.  Please do not contact suspicious persons, contact a Ranger for assistance.
some roads are closed
some roads are closed
Due to Visitor Safety concerns, some roads in the monument are currently closed
Kris Eggle
Who was Kris Eggle
Kris was a Ranger, a Federal Law Enforcement Officer, a co-worker and a friend.
Backcountry campsites
Hiking for more than one day
is possible with a backcountry permit obtained at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center
A view of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument  

Did You Know?
Ninety-five percent of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is designated wilderness. Anyone can experience this irreplaceable resource, for in Organ Pipe Cactus NM the wilderness is to be found just a few yards off any road.

Last Updated: July 25, 2006 at 00:23 EST