Ajo, Arizona and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

You may recall that on my return trip from AGU last December weather patterns had forced me to change plans in order to keep GigaPanning. Well, after the Calico Hills I proceeded south through the Mojave with a brief stops at Pisgah and Amboy Craters and Dish Hill. I can’t show you the GigaPan I shot at the Pisgah Lava Field, unfortunately because the GigaPan Stitching software has a lingering bug that prevents me from stitching my big 360 degree panoramas. By the time I got to Dish Hill the sun was already setting, so I didn’t even have much time to look for xenoliths. (For all you WoGE fans, be sure to note that Peter Luffi has a new article out in JGR that has some very interesting insights into the nature of the lithospheric mantle based on studies of these xenoliths.)


After a night in Blythe, CA and a flat tire near Gila Bend, AZ on Christmas Eve, I finally got about as far south as I could go and camped two nights in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Christmas Day was pretty grey and chilly so I spent most of the day reading in my car. Finally, on Boxing Day the weather began breaking and I was able to get out and shoot some GigaPans again.

The first one is taken on the loop drive in Organ Pipe Cactus NM. The rocks are Tertiary volcanics and the sky was still pretty grey. But look at all the pretty cacti!

Tertiary Volcanics, Ajo Range, Organ Pipe National Monument
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Noticing that the high deck of clouds was clearing from the north, I decided to go back up to Ajo, Arizona to see if I could GigaPan the open pit copper mine there. Unfortunately the only public viewpoint of the pit was looking south into the sun, and the view wasn’t great anyhow. Unable to GigaPan the pit, I decided to do the next best thing by GigaPanning the piles of colorful overburden (technically not the tailings) that were removed to create the pit.


In searching for a spot to get an overview of the open pit, I had passed a couple of places that had a decent vantage point of the town of Ajo. Since the light wasn’t right for a shot in the downtown plaza, I decided to go for an overview of the town instead. It turns out that there was a lot of good detail to see, making this one of my more popular GigaPans for exploring and bookmarking.


Finally, late in the day, I decided to make one more brief foray down to Organ Pipe NM to catch the setting sun illuminating the west face of the Ajo Range. More Tertiary volcanics dominate this view, thought I believe there are some Paleozoic & Mesozoic sedimentary rocks somewhere in the neighborhood.


The Organ Pipe area is a lovely corner of Arizona with some wonderful Basin and Range geology. Although it wasn’t on my original itinerary, I’m glad to have had the chance to get back this way, almost two decades since my first visit (on a Colgate University January Term geology trip). Hopefully it won’t take me another two decades to get back again.

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