Located at the top of a cliff in the Verde Valley is a construction that was occupied by the Sinagua Indians about 600 years ago. It is one of the many cliff dwellings that were built by this culture that inhabited the central Arizona, and is one of the best preserved and the oldest one. When it was discovered in the 1860’s, people believed that the Aztecs were the ones responsible for the construction, so it was named after emperor Montezuma (Moctezuma in Spanish). However, the Aztecs were never that far North, they were not related to the Sinagua, they had nothing to do with the construction of the castle , and the building is not even a castle.
The Sinagua Indians lived in the arid areas of what nowadays is Southwest USA between the 7th and 15th Centuries A.D. They subsisted by farming, hunting, gathering and trading. They developed irrigation systems to water their crops. They also had an organized social system with different hierarchies. They ended up abandoning the entire Verde Valley by the 1400’s, the reasons are unknown. The construction was actually a house.
Montezuma Castle National Monument is located on the side of highway I-17, on exit 289, just 90 minutes north of Phoenix. Entrance fee is $5 for adults 16 years and up and is free for children. It is open everyday from 8 am to 5 pm. There is a small museum in the visitors center that features information about the Sinagua Indians, Montezuma Castle and other constructions nearby. They have some tools and house artifacts in display as well. The ruins can be viewed by walking on a paved trail 1/3 of a mile long. It is wheelchair accessible and you can also bring your dog as long as you have him with a leash.
If you are already over there, you can also visit Montezuma Well. It is 11 miles from Montezuma Castle and you can reach it by car. There is not admission fee for the well. It was formed by the collapse of a limestone cavern about 12 million years ago. There are 1.5 million gallons flowing to the well everyday. You can also see some hohokam house ruins around it.
All photos are owned by Sandra unless otherwise noted.