Tucked into a cliff recess high above the Verde Valley in New Mexico is the Montezuma Castle National Monument, a multistory dwelling built by the Sinagua more than 800 years ago. The Sinagua, Spanish for "without water," were close neighbors and contemporaries of the Anasazi. They originally occupied the foothills and plateaus near the Verde Valley, where they lived in pithouses and farmed without irrigation, depending on rain to water their crops.
Around 1125, the Sinagua moved into the valley and began using the irrigation system left by the Hohokam, who had lived here earlier. They also adopted the Anasazi style of building homes of stone above ground.
The 20-room dwelling preserved at Montezuma Castle National Monument was begun early in the twelfth century. A short trail along Beaver Creek leads from the visitor center, which displays Sinagua pottery, textiles, and other artifacts, to the ruins, which are closed to exploration. The Sinagua were not as skilled at masonry as the Anasazi, yet this prehistoric structure is one of the best-preserved in the Southwest. A six-story apartment nearby, however, has deteriorated badly.
The Montezuma Castle National Monument contains a natural limestone
sink fed by artesian springs.
The monument also contains Montezuma Well, a natural limestone sink fed by artesian springs. This oasis in the desert attracted Hohokam and Sinagua farmers, who irrigated their crops with its water. Traces of irrigation ditches, thickly coated with lime, are still visible throughout the area.
Montezuma Castle National Monument Information
Address: Exit 289 off I-17; left on Montezuma Castle Rd.
Hours of Operation: Open daily, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily; hours extended in summer; closed Christmas
Admission: adults, $5; children under 16, 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.
- New Mexico State Guide: Learn about Mobil Travel Guide-rated hotels and restaurants in New Mexico 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.