HomeThe Sonoran Desert

The Sonoran Desert is a beautiful desert going from northern Mexico into central Arizona and southern New Mexico.  The tree in the lower left is a Palo Verde or 'Green Stick'.  This is a very common tree in the desert.  Its leaves are long nettles.  The tall cacti are Saguaro.  These are an indicative plant of the Sonoran Desert.  That is, Saguaro are only found here.  If you look carefully you can see some Cholla.  Cholla are really pretty cactus with the most vicious of thorns -- even the teddy bear variety can really hurt you.

The brown soil in the foreground is the highway right-of-way but as you get past the fence you can see that the ground is covered with varieties of plants.  The Sonoran desert has a great variety of plants and animals.  You can see a quantity of these at the Tucson Sonoran Desert Museum.  Because of the quantity of growth, it is very easy to get lost in the desert: you cannot see very far.

The Sonoran desert is a dirt desert.  The Mojave starts as a dirt desert and goes into Nevada as a sand desert.  As you travel through Arizona you see everything from brown to red clay, limestone, and even precious metals.  There is gold, silver, uranium, and a little platinum.  Not only are the plants found in all colors but also so is the soil.  There are so many bright colors that people who live here are astounded that someone would think of the desert as bland and brown.

Palo Verde trees are plentiful.  So are mesquite and olive trees.  Sage bushes can grow to 8 feet around.  Any of these will give the paint on your car a bad case of desert rash.  Desert plants have nettles and barbs for a reason: they are delicate and do not want you or animals touching them.

The Sonoran Desert is home to many insects, arachnids, and animals not friendly to people: scorpions, brown recluse spiders and black widow spiders The Mexican Beaded Lizard and the Gila Monster live here: they look a lot alike except the colors are reversed: orange on black or black on orange. The general rule on scorpions is that smaller is worse.

Bears, badgers, beavers, antelope, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, ocelots, and many other animals are indigenous to the area.

As you move west and north in Arizona toward California and Nevada, you leave the Sonoran Desert into the Mojave Desert.  Yucca trees and then mostly just dust, sand and creosote bushes replace the Saguaro.  Up into Nevada you have sand dunes and in California it turns into Death Valley.  These are only pretty to people who love the deserts.  The colorful Sonoran Desert is pretty to anyone.

The weather in the Sonora is unique.  From the start of the year it gets warmer and by June the temperature goes over 100 during the day up to 130.  By August this heat has drawn moisture from the Sea of Cortes to make it humid and causes heavy afternoon storms.  July and August are the monsoon season.  These monsoons stop as the weather cools into fall and winter.  Then there are occasional storms and rain as the daytime temperatures go up to the 60's and the night time temperatures drop to freezing.  Infrequently there is a major snow, which will stay on the ground for a couple of days.  This is unbelievably beautiful.  Snow on the mountain tops, even the small mountains, is frequent in the winter.

The Sonoran Desert

People Die Here

The Sonoran Desert is beautiful but deadly.  You have heard about the illegal immigrants crossing the border and dying before they get to a place to be picked up?  You have to understand this place.  Heat is only one of the problems:

If you are an illegal crossing the border, you must stay hidden:

And if you are an illegal, what are you going to do when you get across the desert?  Do you speak English?  Most gringos do not speak Spanish.  You had better have dollars.  Pesos are worth nothing in the USA.  And you will have to buy food.  You can beg for work but if you do, can you trust the person from whom you are begging to not turn you in?  What about wife and kids?  Back home or with you? It can cost almost 20% to send money back home.

Yes, I have met a few fairly rich Coyotes that take people across the border.  They have nice homes on both sides.  But then there are a lot of Coyotes who will take you money and leave you stranded.  I am not a good judge of character.  Are you?  Are you willing to bet your life on that?

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Written:  2001          Updated:  April 16, 2007          Back To Top