How state, national parks near border became safe for visitors again

Caution: “Smuggling and illegal immigration may be encountered in this area.”

Visitors to state and national parks, monuments and memorials in Southern Arizona have undoubtedly seen these signs posted along popular hiking trails. The sites near the Mexico border are great spots to find hiking, bird watching and camping, but also provide the perfect place for undocumented immigrants and drug smugglers to cross into the U.S.

However, visitors are now unlikely to see any illegal border activity. One reason: Border Patrol now has an operating base inside the national park unit facilities, which has led to more officers being assigned to help reduce illegal border activity.

A safer area includes Organ Pipe National Monument, which is west of the Tohono O’odham Nation in western Pima County. The 517 square-mile park stretches almost 30 miles across the Mexico border and was created in 1937 to preserve a pristine example of Sonoran Desert habitat. The monument — which boasts of hundreds of miles of scenic drives, dozens of miles of hiking grounds, and campgrounds — is home to many endangered Sonoran animals.

Smuggling and illegal border crossing became such a problem by 2003 that most sections of Organ Pipe were closed off to the public. That year, it also was named one of 10 deadliest national parks. Illegal border crossers and drug smuggling not only threaten the safety of visitors to the park, but they also damaged the health and safety of these unique ecosystems.

In 2014, Organ Pipe reopened all areas of the monument to the public, with more than 210,000 people visiting the park that year. Organ Pipe has also seen a reduction in border activity due to a higher presence of Border Patrol officers and overall decreasing trends in illegal border activity.

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13 Comments

  1. Daniel

    I know the story is a year old but it is an outright lie. Just pull up to the higher elevation campground and you will be approached and politely asked to move down due to the drug traffic.

    • If you find a news report to verify your claim, I will be happy to post it. The National Park Service is not likely to endanger tourists.

      • Daniel

        There is no news report. It has happened to me several times. I live in the general area and have friends who are Border Patrol and their staffing numbers are so low they at times only have 17 people on a shift. That is to cover from New Mexico over to hwy 90. The “National” park service is still national which means they are more concerned about optics than facts.

        • So if what you say is true, make it a news story. Notify your local newspaper and TV stations. Take them there and show them. Get it documented on film. Show the rest of the country.

          • Daniel

            How about I record the next time it happens. I am not I interested in becoming a news story, I am concerned about the public thinking there is nothing to worry about when the potential risk are still there.

          • Whatever you feel like you need to do. If you convince the media to join you, then ask them to keep you anonymous for safety reasons, I think they will be happy to oblige if they find evidence that what you are claiming is true.

          • Daniel

            No disrespect but you must not ever spend time in this part of the state. I am born and raised in this part of the nation and to me the smuggling is just a part of life. You are doing yourself a huge disservice if you’re going to only all comments to be posted that “Approved” Or Verified by media. I would like to offer an invitation if you are ever in Arizona to go on a couple hikes in these areas. You will see beautiful trails ruined by mountains of discarded plastic, clothes and backpacks. These areas are nothing new and a little bit of research on this kind of environmental poison will provide some “Media” reported facts. I am here to tell you the media as well as the government (And it doesnt matter who is in office) DOES NOT post stories that make the country seem unsafe. In this area three years ago a park employee was beaten in broad daylight and let for dead.
            It is not about me “Doing what I fell I need to do” It is about you listening to the locals, which I know your not, otherwise we would not be having this dialog.
            I am serious about you looking me up if your ever here. I will take you into places in these mountains and show you where they pay “Scouts” to live on mountains employed by the cartels. Personally I thought this was a blog on Hiking so I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the resistance.

          • Daniel, if you’re so peeved about it, why are you resistant to doing something about it? Simply commenting on my hiking blog won’t make the problem go away. Talk to that Arizona Sonora News Service reporter who wrote this article last April and tell him what you’re telling me. Perhaps he will invest the time to update his reporting. You remaining quiet about what you know condones it happening.

          • Daniel

            Actually I haven’t been silent at all about it. I have done several interviews on national news networks. I am a expert in this field

          • Well, that’s what I asked you in my very first response way up above. If you have links to those interviews I will be happy to post them. The NPS closed portions of Organ Pipe years ago because of exactly what you are describing. Last year they reopened it believing the situation to be resolved from a tourist safety perspective. If that is not the case now again, appropriate officials need to be aware.

          • Daniel

            The links are out of date. About the same time there were 14 shootings in a single 12 month period on I-8 involving smuggling and smugglers trying to steal trucks as Americans pulled over to use the rest room or let the dog use a bush. You never heard anything about it ANYWHERE! The only reason Organ Pipe revived ANY attention is because a Federal Agent was killed there. I knew him personally. I also know the Pinal Country Sheriff who was shot in Vekol Valley and was the individual who notified 911 of his name and where abouts. So I guess what i am getting at is I don’t need some leftwing politically driven news outlet to confirm my knowledge or some rightwing politician who want to use what’s happening for votes. My words are facts and anyone reading your posted story that has been there knows what I have said is the truth.

          • Daniel, it’s not that I believe you or don’t believe you. After two decades of reading and creating web sites, if there is one thing I have learned it is that you can’t trust everything you read on the Internet. For all I know, you may be the park superintendent at Organ Pipe. What I do know, though, is that you created an anonymous avatar to comment on my website, so by nature I have to take what you say with a grain of salt. Whether what you say is true or false, all I’m saying is that people have agendas. Since this is all being posted on my own personal website, I hope you understand that I have to be careful. Anyway, thanks for the civil discussion. I certainly appreciate
            that. I do hope that you will try to do something about what you know.

          • Daniel

            So in parting I would like to quote you “If you don’t say anything you are condoning”. I am doing all I can and that is to spread the word on blogs that people would use as a resource. Information that is critical and could cost you your life. You never lace up your boots and start off at a trail head. You look at a map…….your Blog is a map for people.

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