A national park in southern Arizona near the U.S. mexico border is giving tours with armed escorts because of problems with drug smuggling in the area.
The park – Quitobaquito Spring at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument south of Ajo – is a natural oasis in the desert that covers 330,689-acres.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is home to 28 cactus species and a diverse population of other desert plants and animals.
Park ranger Kris Eggle was killed while pursuing suspected drug smugglers there in 2002.
Matthew Vandzura is currently the chief park ranger charged with ensuring visitor safety.
Two thirds of the park is closed to visitors without an armed escort. Park rangers are currently in a battle with smugglers to reclaim the park from illegal activity.
The guards remain mostly out of sight of tourists lurking in bushes on the lookout for drug smugglers.
A visitor to the park from Idaho said: “It’s OK. But it’s sad.” about the armed escorts.
A visitor from Chicago said: “I don’t even notice it. I feel completely safe, and it’s great to get to come to an area that’s not usually open.”
Escorted tours to Quitobaquito Spring at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument are to take place March 27 and March 28.
Call 1-520-387-6849 for tour availability and directions.