Ajo, Arizona: Paradise for Plants and People

Aug 8, 2016 by Allan Dunstan

For a minute, forget everything man has created: the mine, the Arizona-Mexico border and even the historic town Plaza. Think of the location on earth that Ajo is privileged to occupy. This is a spectacular combination of climate, topography and natural resources with few equals around the world.

Ajo is the gateway to a wide variety of unique features including dense stands of Organ Pipe cacti, the Pinacate volcanic craters and wildlife not found anywhere else on earth. And, I think it is fair to include an ocean bounded by a 1,100 mile peninsula.

“Heart of the Sonoran Desert” is more than a marketing ploy. In terms of landmass, it is literally true. This world-renowned desert is comprised of six subdivisions stretching from Needles, CA in the north to the western coast of Baja California and from Palm Springs in the west to an area close to the Arizona-New Mexico border.

Ajo lies in the favored Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert. A landmark study, originally published by the Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum in 1982, mapped the plant communities in the SW U.S. and NW Mexico. It described this area as: “Truly spectacular, it is the best watered and least desert-like desert scrub in North America”.

This emotional reaction is uncommon for a scientific document that uses lots of Latin and only metric units.

Areas that support a wide variety of plant life are a great indicator of favorable long-term weather patterns and are likely the most comfortable for people too. Ajo certainly fits that description. As an example, Ajo Botanical Company planted well over 100 different species of trees and shrubs at the La Siesta Motel. And not one was lost in the February freeze of 2011, widely considered to be the worst in 50 years.

As a plant hobbyist, I always regarded San Diego as having one of the best climates for growing a variety of species. It also has very comfortable year round weather for people. Based on first-hand experience, I think Ajo is comparable for both life forms. The big difference is five million people vs. 4,000 people and only one stop light.

Some residents have said they chose Ajo by looking at the Weather Channel temperature map. It is not unusual to see Ajo included in one of the only yellow areas (60’s to 70’s) while the rest of the U.S. is covered in blue and purple (freezing).

Besides the wonderful weather, Ajo offers a much lower stress lifestyle. It may sound cliché, but it really is true that you seldom go anywhere without someone waving or saying hello. And there are a wide variety of recreational and cultural activities to keep life fun and interesting. Pick up a copy of the Ajo Copper News or log on to the Ajo Chamber of Commerce website for information about events like the Sonoran Shindig Festival, Fiddlers’ Contest, a Tri-National Symposium, Tucson Symphony Orchestra concerts, art exhibits and more.

Outdoor recreational opportunities abound. Clean air and wide-open spaces make Ajo a great place to launch hiking and biking expeditions. In fact, a Mountain Biking Tour map will soon be available at the Visitor Center in the Plaza. Or if you just want to take it easy, you can sit almost anywhere and soak in the plants, wildlife and mountains.

It is no wonder that you hear people in Ajo use the expression, “just another beautiful day in paradise.” The plants agree!

Related Posts

Tags

Share This