Sunday, May 14, 2017

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Fort Verde

Montezuma Castle National Monument

On the way to Camp Verde for church at the local Calvary Chapel, as we get to the intersection of North Arena Del Loma and North Montezuma Castle Highway, I look over and see a large cave-like area in the cliffs.  I get the camera out and zoom in a little and what do I see…Montezuma Castle.  After church, which we thought was just wonderful, and after lunch at a restaurant near the church, and after a drive-by visit to Fort Verde there in town, we drove over to Montezuma Castle National Monument.  The NPS Senior Pass got us in for free, and they have a nice visitor’s center, and the path to the Castle is paved, not very long, and easy to walk for me, drive for Marcia.

Calvary Chapel Camp Verde
Fort Verde   Fort Verde
Fort Verde

Knowing that we have limited time because we had doggies awaiting us at the motorhome (we try not to be gone longer than 4 hours), we did not get out of the car at the fort.  The park tries to display what the fort was like during the Apache war time period.  The bronze plaque, which if you click will open in a large picture, contains the names of the soldiers who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for action seen with the Apaches.  Perhaps next time we are through the area, we will take the time to visit the fort, it seems like it would be interesting.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

At Montezuma Castle, you enter the Visitor’s Center and pay the fee (or show the senior pass as we did).  There are some nice displays in the center, including this one showing Teddy Roosevelt.  Roosevelt proclaimed Montezuma Castle one of the nation's first four national monuments on December 8, 1906, along with El Morro and Petrified Forest.  Devils Tower in Wyoming was the country's first national monument.  We have now been to 3 out of the 4 first National Monuments…going to have to put El Morro on our list so we can see all four.

Montezuma Castle National Monument    Montezuma Castle National Monument

The path is very nice, and very quickly after leaving the visitor’s center, you can see Montezuma Castle.  It is easy to see, and easy to imagine what it was like hundreds of years ago when the Sinagua people built and used the dwellings.  The main structure comprises five stories and twenty rooms, and was built over the course of three centuries.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

European-Americans first observed the ruins in the 1860s, by then long-abandoned, and they named them for the famous Aztec emperor Montezuma in the mistaken belief that he had been connected to their construction.  However, the dwellings had been used, and abandoned well before Montezuma was born…but the name has stuck despite this fact.  Also, it is not really a Castle, but more like a condo-apartment type of complex…it is a series of living quarters.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

There are also some dwellings close to, but not physically connected to, the ‘Castle’. 

Montezuma Castle National Monument     Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle National Monument

In this area, to the left of the Castle, there are many other dwellings…the Park Service calls this "Castle A".  They estimate that the last time any Sinagua occupied the area was around 1425 A.D.  They can only speculate as to why they built the dwellings in the cliffs (heat comes to my mind), and they have no idea why they abandoned the area.  Several Hopi and Yavapai trace their ancestries to early immigrants from the Montezuma Castle area.

Montezuma Castle National Monument 

Beaver Creek runs right near the complex, and yearly flooding could have been the reason for building up on the cliffs.  There is a lot of evidence of farming, and not too far away is the Montezuma Well, a natural limestone sinkhole through which some 1,500,000 US gallons of water emerge each day from an underground spring.  This source of water provided water to the crops then, and now.  As early as the 700 AD time period water was being diverted through a canal.  We did not visit this area…again, the puppy dogs.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Along the path back to the visitor’s center, there is a audio visual display of what it looks like inside the Castle.  In 1951 they stopped allowing access to the dwellings due to damage caused by those visiting.  One had to climb a series of ladders to get into the dwellings.  My parents said that I have been here before…when I was around two years old, perhaps the summer before I turned two.  Of course, I don’t remember any of it, except for seeing pictures on slides which have long ago been destroyed….

Montezuma Castle is just a few miles off I-17 at exit 289.  It is an easy, accessible walk, and within an hour you can be back in your car…or you can take your time in the Visitor’s Center and be back on the road in two hours.  This is another one of those “driven by the sign on the Interstate” many times without stopping, or even looking at what it would take to see this National Monument. 

(Ok family and friends...how many of you saw Marcia in one of the pictures?)

6 comments:

  1. Saw her right away!
    Montezuma Castle is definitely worth a stop especially if you have mobility issues because the trail allows you to get a great view which isn't possible in many other parks.

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    1. I like to sneak her into my photos every now and then...awaiting the hit in the arm for doing so. lol

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  2. One of my all time favorite places!! One of these years I'm going to volunteer at Fort Verde ... in full costume!!! I'm with you on the puppy detail ... I try not to leave mine more than six hours max!!

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    1. With her diabetes, Skruffy just doesn't need the stress, that is for sure. She is doing so good, although her eyesight is starting to fail (cataracts)

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  3. Marcia has to realize that she is among a growing number of Seniors with mobility issues.
    Thanks for the Post Dave. we already have our sights set to visit this coming fall as we head back to the Southwest.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

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    1. It is more the effects of MS than senior, but we have had a GoGo, which we carry in the back of the HHR, which will get her on paths that she otherwise could not handle.

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