Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

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."

Casa Grande Ruins
Architecture of the Hohokams stands out in the Arizona 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.

­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
Telephone: 520/723-3172
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

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



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