Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in the Gila River Valley of southern Arizona preserves the remains of a village once occupied by the Hohokam Indians. The highly developed Hohokam culture was superbly adapted to survive in this hot land of little rain. Archaeologist Emil Haury, who studied the Hohokam for many years, called them the "First Masters of the American Desert."
The Sonoran Desert receives only seven to ten inches of rain per year, so the Hohokam constructed a miles-long system of dams, headgates, and canals that brought water from all over the surrounding desert to irrigate their crops. They also built large walled arenas that may have been used for ball games like those the Aztecs played or as gathering places for other purposes.
Architecture of the Hohokams stands out in the Arizona desert.
The monument preserves an ancient building 60 feet long and four stories high, the largest structure known to exist in Hohokam times. Coming upon this mysterious building, which rose in solitude above the desert, the Spaniards called it Casa Grande, or Great House.
Built before 1350 using a concretelike substance called caliche, the building's walls face the four cardinal points of the compass. Portholes in the walls are struck by the sun's rays as it sets during the summer solstice.
Visitors to Casa Grande can see ancient pottery and tools at the visitor center, or they can wander the mysterious ruins, contemplating why the Hohokam studied the heavens so carefully here.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument Information
Address: 1100 Ruins Dr., Coolidge, AZ
Hours of Operation: open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thanksgiving Day and December 25th
Admission: adults, $5; children 15 and under, free
Learn about these other national monuments:
To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:
- National Monuments: Learn more about America's national monuments.
- National Memorials: Discover national memorials in the U.S.
- National Historic Sites: Read about American national historic sites.
- Arizona State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in Arizona as well as other recreational activities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.