Montezuma's Castle or Well, Sedona
Montezuma's Castle (which is misnamed because it is not believed Montezuma ever traveled this far) is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. The castle consists of 20 rooms and is built into the side of a towering limestone cliff. It was built around 1000 years ago by the Sinagua Indians. It is a classic example of the last phase of southern Sinagua occupation of the Verde Valley. On December 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt declared four sites, including Montezuma's Castle, of historic and cultural significance as our nation's first National Monuments.
You can take a leisurly walk along the paved 1/3 mile path, in the shade of large old Sycamore trees, and view the exhibits in the museum. The Montezuma Castle Visitor Center is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day 8 AM to 6 PM and from Labor Day through Memorial Day 8 AM to 5 PM. Entry (which is good for 7 days) is $5.00.
A second part of the park is the nearby Montezuma's Well. It is located a few miles north of the castle. In addition to seeing the well itself; you can see four types of houses: Cave Dwellings; Cliff Dwellings; Pithouses; and standalone Pueblos. For more details and photos see my Montezuma's Castle Page.
Montezuma Castle and Well (see next tip) are actually located about 11 miles from each other. Located in the Verde Valley about 1/2 an hour south of Sedona, this area has been a haven to nomadic ancient peoples.
The name "Montezuma" came from explorers in the 1800's who believed the local aborginals would not have the knowledge to build such a structure so attributed it to the early Aztecs.
The dwelling could be called an ancient apartment building; it is not outwardly visible, but the interior has about 5 levels. It is so well preserved as it was built into a deep alcove and therefore was protected for the elements. This structure was actually only part of a large ancient community in the area, and you can see other ruins as you wander the interpretive footpath around the area. As it is about 100 feet from ground level, you cannot enter the dwelling, but you can get a good look at it from several viewpoints.
There is a small visitor's centre with some displays in it.
There is an amazing structure (the castle) built into the side of a cliff. It was erroneously dubbed Montezuma's caste. The explorers that discovered it thought that Montezuma's people traveled as far as Arizona, but they were mistaken. The castle was actually built and used by a Native American tribe called the Sinagua (without water). The tribe used ladders to get up to the castle and to get up onto successive floors.
Montezuma Well was created when underwater streams dissolved limestone in the area, and formed a cavern. The cavern eventually collapsed about 11,000 years ago, and formed a sinkhole. What you will notice as you approach the rim of Montezuma's Well, it is high desert country, and as you descend along the footpath by the water, the area becomes lush and green.
An amazing 1,400,000 gallons of water flows through it a day, and the water is always at a constant 74 degrees. Scientists still have not found the source that feeds this pond. There are no fish in the water, as it is too highly carbonated.
This pond was an oasis to the ancient native peoples, and as you walk the area, you will see many remains of cliff dwellings and stone homes, which were inhabited around the 900's. Behind Montezuma's well, there is an outlet near Beaver Creek, and an ancient irrigation canal that was carved into the rock to water crops.
What has been recently discovered is that the levels of arsenic in the water are 10 times the accepted level for human consumption. It is speculated that the nearby inhabitants may have left due to increased mortality from the water use.
One of the best preserved cliff dwellings is found in North America. It is called the Montezuma Castle.
This towering apartment perched on a cliff of limestone, tells the history of the people who lived here 1, 000 years ago. It basically tells how the people then survived the atrocities of the unforgiving desert landscape.
Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to get inside the castle to protect and preserve the structure from further damage. Only the Park staff are allowed to enter the ruins to monitor the dwelling and to maintain it.
However, visitors can have a virtual tour of the best preserved dwelling!
This Montezuma Well is actually a part of the Montezuma Castle National Monument. There are trails here and a great place for hiking, history studies and even exploration of the prehistoric Sinaguan cliff dwellings and the pueblo ruins. There is also the 1,000 year old irrigation ditch which today is still being used by the local residents!
At the Montezuma Well National Monument, there are limestone sinkhole, cliff dwellings and lush oasis by Wet Beaver Creek.
This monument is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.. Memorial Day-Labor Day.
Winter hours (after Labor Day) are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Montezuma's Castle is a Sinaguan pueblo ruin five stories high with twenty rooms. It is astonishingly well preserved due to its position in a cliff recess. Involves a .3 mile walk along a paved trail.
Costs $3 a person to get in.
National parks pass costs $50 a family a year.
grand canyon costs $20 a car per week
If you are planning on going more than once to the Grand canyon and to some other national parks in a year worth while getting a park pass