Mar 31, 2014

Heritage- Montezuma's Castle and Well, back in the time of ancient cliff dwellers!



The 5-storey, 20-room castle with apartment style dwellings around, so called Montezuma's Castle National Monument has reputation of best preserved Sinaguan cliff dwelling of North America. It is not a castle where Montezuma lived. Early settlers believed that this neat structure belonged to the 16th century Aztec Emperor Montezuma. In reality, the castle was built by the Sinagua Indians in 12th century and they had abandoned the place a century earlier than Montezuma was even born!

Montezuma's Castle National Monument in Arizona
Montezuma's Castle

The castle is built into a limestone cliff high above the Beaver Creek which provided the water for livelihood and farming. Sinagua Indians planned their life around these water sources for around 200 years and we can still find their dwellings scattered around here.

Montezuma's Castle National Monument in Arizona
Castle close up
The visitor center of the monument  has maps, facilities and a gift shop. From the visitor center a paved trail which is pretty shaded takes you to the castle, other dwellings and the Beaver Creek. One can take a stroll and relax near the creek.

Just 11miles away is a funnel shaped limestone sink-hole called Monetzuma's Well which also is part of the National Monument. Fed by two underground springs this geological marvel was created by the collapse of a limestone bedrock or a cavern. This oasis in the desert grassland of Arizona is 55ft deep and measures 368ft across. The sink filled with water year around keeps the place cooler than its surroundings and has good plant and bird life around.

It seems the Hohokam were the first settlers here during 600 AD. They used the water to irrigate. Later came Sinagua Indians and their dwellings can still be seen on the rock ledges of the well. An outlet, probably another underground cavern, from where water flows into an irrigation ditch which is believed to be 1,000 year old!

Montezuma's Well in Arizona
Montezuma's Well
A paved trail which leads to the overlooks and the dwellings for closer looks is partially around the rim. There are steps down to reach the water which are not in very good shape. I did go down and felt the coolness of the water. The temperature was easily 10 degrees less than that at the rim.

The place is very exposed and during my visit in late October there was not even one single piece of cloud in the sky. I walked down to see the water outlet which is under this limestone sink and it was the best place to rest in the hot afternoon under the shade of sycamore and velvet ash trees. The vegetation here is thick and the ground is drenched in shade.

Montezuma's Well in Arizona
Ruins, Steps to the well, Water outlet into irrigation ditch

In fact, I visited this place by chance. I was really bored of finding parking place at every attraction of Sedona and so I checked nearby interesting places on the way to Phoenix. And I was at Montezuma's property and I am glad about it! Few miles away from Montezuma's Well is V-bar-V Petroglyphs site where one can see more than 1,000 symbols used by ancient people on a rock face! It was an unexpected experience to learn how the ancient people discovered and used the natural resources to survive. Though Montezuma never was here, his name is attached to this amazing place with history of Native Americans.

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Related articles-
Interesting places near Sedona
Mesa Verde National Park, a tour back in time!
Anasazi State Museum on byway-12
Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona
American South-West: A road trip

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Scrapbook- A Travel Blog by Kusum Sanu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

16 comments:

  1. Great pics! Wonder if I will ever see such scenes for real.

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    1. Thanks Indrani! If not these you might have been to another pocket of the world which others might not have seen!

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  2. Hi there - we have been following each other around! This is a fascinating place - although I did not get to the well.

    I think you need to book a flight to Australia!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Definitely following each other! Yeah, I am considering to take a job in Australia so that I can get around in that expensive country!

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  3. what a fascinating place and great shots

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  4. Fascinating place! Thank you very much for the explanations . Great pictures.

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    1. You are welcome always! Glad you liked my articles.

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  5. What an amazing place and great shots.

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  6. I'm always amazed at how they could create such immense structures so high up the canyon wall. Life must have been very challenging, but fulfilling at the same time. - Margy

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    1. True. Their average life span was 35years it seems! Indicates definitely a challenging life!

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  7. What a fascinating place! I wonder what the castle looks like from inside.

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    1. Yeah, me too was curious to know how it is from inside. But, visitors are not allowed to enter.

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