By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/21/2020
Occurred: 9/14/2013
Topics/Keywords: #Montezuma'sCastle Page Views: 176
Keith and I knock another site off the old bucket list!

After Keith and I broke camp at Fossil Springs, we found it was such a beautiful day, and certainly too early for us to return home. So I mentioned Montezuma's Castle, which is quite near Camp Verde. This is an ancient cliff dwelling, founded about a thousand years ago, and active for about 400 years before the residents all packed up and moved away. Since Keith is mostly Navajo, Montezuma's Castle was inhabited by his direct ancestors; and he was excited to see it.

Montezuma's Castle

Basically, the place is an ancient high-rise apartment complex that, at its height in the 1300s, provided homes for a couple hundred people.

The Sinaguas' southern cousins, the Hohokam, had previously dug irrigation canals off the nearby Verde River. Although the Sinagua specialized in rain-only agriculture, as do the Hopi of today, they did make use of the water in the canal and in the river in their daily lives.

Verde River near Montezuma's Castle

Montezuma's Castle National Monument is easily accessible, and requires only a 20-minute walk or so to see. Obviously, no one is allowed to actually enter the dwellings—it wouldn't be safe, and the soft limestone rock of which they are built needs continuous "stabilizing" so that simple rainwater doesn't erode it away. But a detailed diorama, built in 1951 when the Park Service closed access to the dwellings, shows how the interiors looked and how the residents used them.

Montezuma's Castle diorama

But even a person with no interest in archaeology or Native Americans or soft limestone, can enjoy visiting the monument simply for the lovely environment: the trees, the grass, the scenery, even the considerately-placed benches.

Keith photographing a stand of trees at Montezuma's Castle.