Oh the joys of being back in a place where WiFi is available!! Taking up where I left off on our wild west tour, our next big outing in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument involved another road trip – this time along the South Puerto Blanco Drive. This gravel road runs parallel to the border between Mexico and the United States and at mile marker 15 the two-way section of this road ends at the Quitobaquito Spring.
We drove south on Route 85 to the entrance onto the South Puerto Blanco Drive. It is a 15-mile drive to the spring, and we were told it would take about an hour. Wrong!! This is a gravel/dirt road chock full of washboard sections that will rattle your teeth! Along the way to the spring, we stopped a few times to check out the infamous and controversial “border wall” that was recently constructed along the 30-mile national monument border.
The construction of this border wall along the 30-mile stretch of land is, in my humble opinion, an environmental and social disaster. The wall itself is 30-feet tall and made of steel bollards 6 inches wide with a 4-inch gap between bollards. The entire length of the wall is embellished with stadium lighting that interrupts the dark sky status of the area. It was created by bulldozing a 60-foot-wide swath of desert 30-miles long – destroying sensitive plant material, interrupting natural migration routes for desert animals, disrupting nocturnal animal patterns, compromising native American archaeological sites and depleting valuable resources including the unique desert aquifer that exists here. Before this current eyesore was constructed, there were already vehicular and physical barriers in place along this stretch of the border. In 2006, an unobtrusive steel fence was completed by the park service that served as a physical deterrent to illegal activity crossing the border and driving through the monument. Prior to the steel fence, a barbed wire fence was repeatedly compromised causing vehicular traffic from across the border to carve many miles of illegal “roads” through the pristine desert environment. The low-impact steel barrier replaced the old fence and solved the problem. So, why did we spend millions upon millions of dollars causing irreparable damage to the environment to build this new wall that totally undermines the reason why the initial steel fence was built? Answer: to satisfy a political agenda that has nothing to do with public safety or respect for environmentally and historically sensitive public lands.
Of particular concern to many native American tribes and other local inhabitants is the impact this construction will have on one of the few naturally occurring sources of fresh water in the area – Quitobaquito Spring. This spring is home to several plant and animal species that do not exist anywhere else – the endangered Quitobaquito pupfish, the Quitobaquito spring snail, the Sonoyta mud turtle and the desert caper plant. Many animal species that depended on the spring for water have been impacted due to the obstruction of the wall including pronghorn, javelina, bobcat and desert tortoises. Migration routes may well be impacted as we realize the disruption through on-going research.
Some wildflowers blooming along the pond’s edge –
It was truly an exceptionally spiritual experience to visit the Quitobaquito Spring and see this ecosystem that has been nourishing the inhabitants – both human and animal – of this region for thousands of years.
After our hours long road trip, we came back to the campground and walked along the 1.5 interpretive trail that leaves from the campground. We needed to stretch our legs after driving much of the day.
The sun was setting along our walk and it was very restful to watch the desert go to sleep.