In November 2007 I visited my uncle and aunt in Tempe, Arizona. On one day, my uncle took me on a tour through the Tonto National Forest. It includes parts of the Sonoran Desert and that's what we saw.
Shortly after we entered the National Forest, we came to our first stop at Canyon Lake Visit:
That's the lake, my uncle and me.
We stopped several times on the road to enjoy the scenery and have a closer look at the plants:
Those large cactea are Saguaro cactea. It takes them about 70 years of growing before they develop the first side arms. They are the 'a-list stars' of the Sonoran Desert.
Meanwhile the road turned into a dusty, unpaved track. Its original purpose was to provide access to the construction site of the Lake Roosevelt Dam. Since construction has been finished a long time ago, road maintenance has been reduced to a minimum. Before Lake Roosevelt comes Apache Lake:
What a blue!
After Apache Lake the road descends into a valley carved by a small river, Fish Creek:
It's amazing to see find such a green oasis in the midle of a desert even if it's water supply only exists periodically. When we visited, the small river was dried out. Probably the plants are still able to access groundwater.
Shortly after Fish Creek comes Lake Roosevelt:
(All three lakes are situated at the salt river and are major contributors to the Phoenix area water supply.)
Close to the Lake Roosevelt are some fascinating cliff dwellings of the Salado people. They've lived there from about 1300 to 1450. After that time, their culture disappeared. Since no knowledge about these people was preserved, their cultur was named after the river (salt river - rio salado) whose valley they inhabited. Today, the cliff dwellings are the Tonto National Monument:
The cactus on the last photo is called 'teddy bear cholla'. Somehow I wouldn't want anyone to mistake it for a teddy bear.
The official Tonto National Forest Homepage.