Saturday, March 22, 2014

Montezuma Castle National Monument

      Even though Montezuma Castle might be the worst named historic site in Arizona, it certainly is one of the most amazing Indian ruins in the American Southwest.  And, just what did King Montezuma have to do with this national monument bearing his name in Arizona’s Verde Valley?   Absolutely nothing!  
     But the American settlers of the 1850s were sure that the Aztec People from Valley of Mexico and their great leader, King Montezuma II, had built this pueblo along Beaver Creek and so they named this multi-storied ruins in the king’s honor!
    On December 8, 1906 President Theodore Roosevelt called the ruins of Montezuma Castle a pueblo “of the greatest ethnological value and scientific interest.”  Such praise from the American President resulted in Montezuma Castle National Monument being the second national monument ever created in America.
    It was the Sinagua People who in the early 1100s built this ancient, five story, 20 room “high rise apartment” under a large, natural limestone cliff some 100 feet above the flowing creek.  Nearby the high rise castle is a much larger pueblo ruin, known as Castle A, which lies today as only a pile of rubble against the base of the castle’s limestone cliff.
    From these ancient dwellings the Sinagua farmers used the water of Beaver Creek to irrigate their bean, squash and corn fields that grew along the banks of the ever flowing creek.  When the day’s work was done, they would climb long ladders to again reach the safety of their home under the cliff. 
    By the mid-1400s the Sinagua People’s destiny had joined that of other early Arizona tribes and they disappeared from their northern Arizona homes. The Sinagua People had abandoned their high-cliff home along Beaver Creek some 100 years before King Montezuma’s birth in the Valley of Mexico. 
Why they left their “5 story castle” remains a mystery to archeologist even today. Eight modern tribes claim to be the descendents of the Sinagua People.
    Montezuma Castle National Monument is 841 acres in size.  A 1/3 mile paved trail leaves from the visitor center and travels along the base of the cliff under the castle.  Visitors can no longer enter the castle ruins as the castle was officially closed to guided tours on October 1, 1951.
    A short 11 miles northwest of Montezuma Castle is another section of the national monument known as Montezuma Well.  Montezuma Well is a sinkhole in the limestone formation filled with fresh water.  Each day 1.5 million gallons of 76° water pass through the well, creating a lush oasis in the high desert landscape. 
     Montezuma Well is 368 feet across and 55 feet deep.  The source of its tremendous, daily flow of water is not known.  Rim ruins and ancient canals indicate that both Sinagua and Hohokam farmers once lived here and used the well’s water to irrigate their crops.

Montezuma Castle National Monument is located some 56 miles north of Anthem on I-17 at Exit 289 in Camp Verde, Arizona.  The GPS coordinates of Montezuma Castle National Monument is N34°36.694΄ W111°50.365΄.  To learn more about Montezuma Caste National Monument visit and profileMontezuma.htm .

Montezuma Well

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