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.

Montezuma Castle
The Montezuma Castle National Monument contains a natural limestone
sink fed by artesian springs.

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 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.
Telephone: 928/567-3322
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:

­Agate Fossil Beds National MonumentColorado National MonumentGeorge Washington Birthplace National MonumentNatural Bridges National MonumentScotts Bluff National Monument
Alibates Flint Quarries National MonumentDevils Postpile National Monument George Washington Carver National MonumentOcmulgee National MonumentSunset Crater Volcano National Monument
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Booker T. Washington National MonumentEffigy Mounds National MonumentGrand Portage National MonumentOrgan Pipe Cactus National MonumentTonto National Monument
Buck Island Reef National MonumentEl Malpais National MonumentHohokam Pima National MonumentPetroglyph National MonumentTuzigoot National Monument
Cape Krusenstern National Monument El Morro National MonumentHomestead National MonumentPinnacles National MonumentWalnut Canyon National Monument
Capulin Volcano National MonumentFlorissant Fossil Beds National MonumentHovenweep National MonumentPipe Spring National MonumentWupatki National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National MonumentFort Frederica National MonumentJewel Cave National MonumentPipestone National Monument
Castle Clinton National MonumentFort Matanzas National MonumentJohn Day Fossil Beds National MonumentPoverty Point National Monument
Cedar Breaks National MonumentFort Stanwix National MonumentLava Beds National MonumentRainbow Bridge National Monument
Chiricahua National MonumentFossil Butte National MonumentMontezuma Castle National MonumentRussell Cave National Monument

To learn more about national national monuments, memorials, and historic sites, and other travel destinations in North America, visit:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Eric Peterson is a Denver-based freelance writer who has contributed to numerous guidebooks about the Western United States.