Thursday, May 5, 2011

Montezuma Well ~ Verde Valley ~ Arizona

We were RV’ing in the Verde Valley on our way to see the Grand Canyon when we parked at Camp Verde RV Resort as our base to visit some interesting places in the area.  One of those special visits was at Montezuma Well, just a few miles up I-17 and north of Camp Verde.  There is no charge to visit this national park at this time and we drove there after visiting Montezuma Castle, another special place to visit.
Montezuma Well in Verde Valley, AZ
Montezuma Well is a naturally occurring spring in the desert and was considered a hallowed place.  The warm springs replenish the well with over 1.5 million gallons of water daily before it flows out through a cave.  The amount of water flow and the temperature (25C/76F) is maintained all year round.  The Well is funnel shaped, 112 meters (368’) across and almost 17 meters (55’) deep.

Cliff dwelling ovelooks Montezuma Well, AZ
The Sinagua Indians built the cliff houses, which were usually one room so this would explain why the many rooms of the Montezuma Castle would give that its name. The cliff houses would face east to get the morning sunshine to heat them on cool mornings.  They were easy to build into the cliff and this would keep them warm and dry. 

Rugged terrain lines the Montezuma Well
Prehistoric people lived here about 700AD and ate off the land but it was the Hohokam people that likely started the farming and by the 1300’s, the Sinagua people were growing corn, squash, beans and cotton crops. It was during their time that the water was channeled from the Well and used to irrigate their crops.

Ruins of cliff dwellings at Montezuma Well, AZ
This small group of cliff houses would be accessed by walking along the narrow cliffside.  The Sinagua people would have lived here between 1300AD – 1400AD and develop their farming community and crops irrigated by the spring waters. These homes are some of the many in the Verde Valley, including Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle as well as more than 50 ridge top pueblos that were left behind without explanation in the 1400’s.

Natural spring makes Montezuma Well in Verde Valley, AZ
There is a very active underwater life in the Well.  There are no gill-breathing fish here due to the high level of carbon dioxide but other little creatures that keep the cycle going.  Canada Geese and ducks, foxes, skunks and raccoons can be seen in this area, mostly during quiet times.

Pueblo ruins at Montezuma Well, AZ
There were many different types of homes including pueblos built in this area.  The ruins shown here would likely have been a 20-30 room pueblo built on the hilltop to overlook their crops.  The natives would use limestone and sandstone using mud to hold them together to form their home, as well as trees, branches and shrubs to make roofs and supports.

Montezuma Well  pueblo ruins in Verde Valley, AZ
The pueblo home was built with small rooms as they were only used for sleeping and eating.  Most of the living was done outside.  They would dry corn and seeds for winter storage, put into pottery containers they would make.  The plaza area was used for welcoming neighbors and trading goods.  

Plant information in Verde Valley
The nature walk that surrounds the Montezuma Well has several story boards that describe the life of the people that once walked these areas. There are native plants still growing that once offered medicinal as well as nutritional aid to their diets.

There are no Sinagua tribes that exist today but the legacy they’ve left behind is a large part of the history of the Verde Valley and offers some incredible sights to see with the cliff dwellings they left behind.  They have been protected in National parks for us to enjoy and appreciate.

Follow the map directions to Camp Verde to begin your Montezuma experience.  Signs are well posted from there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Desert View ~ Grand Canyon ~ Colorado River ~ Arizona

Desert View is located in the Grand Canyon, 52 km (32 mi) from the Grand Canyon Village and wherever there was a location to see the canyon from between these two locations, a viewpoint has been built.  We made a stop at every single one of those viewpoints and none were disappointing!  The views were similar yet different, colors and terrain varied and some showed more variety in formation than others but they were all incredible to see.

The Desert View Watchtower in Grand Canyon, AZ
The Watchtower is visible from some of those viewpoints and is located just before the eastern entrance/exit to the Grand Canyon National Park. The location known as Desert View due to the fact this is the eastern edge of the canyon and the desert spans east from here for miles across the Navajo Indian Reservation.

The desert view thru a portal on a masonry wall
Mary Cotter was hired in 1932 by The Fred Harvey Company to build a view and rest area at Desert View.  She designed the Watchtower as she did many other buildings in the Grand Canyon area, following the parkitecture theme using rocks and wood that blends into the local landscape.  She then used the railway engineers and bridge builders to erect the steel framework for the masonry walls to be built on and then supervised the construction of the entire project.

Paintings of Hopi history cover the walls of the Watchtower
A Hopi artist, Fred Kabotie, painted the first floor with symbols that tell the stories of his heritage.  Another Hopi artist, Chester Dennis created the petroglyphs seen on the wall of the first floor.

Looking up to the top ceiling of the 3 level Watchtower in Desert View, AZ
The round tower with the stairways following the curve at the outside wall of the building add much interest to some of the paintings just due to the location and overall look when we look up……….way up!  Fred Geary, a Fred Harvey Company painter painted the walls and ceilings on the second and third floors.  These symbols were found and adapted copies from original sites in the Southwest and New Mexico.

Looking down over the curved stairs onto the first floor of the Watchtower
These paintings were fascinating and most walls and the ceiling had some native work painted on them. Their story isn’t written in word here but if the time is taken to study these paintings and a little imagination is used, there are definitely some stories there.  The gift shop adjoining the tower has many symbol-like crafts to enjoy for souvenirs.

One of many built by the Civilian Conservation Corps
Much of the work and construction of trails, rock walls, roads and buildings at Desert View was done from 1935 to 1942 by the men of Civilian Conservation Corps who lived here during that time.  They completed over twenty projects taking great pride in their work and many of these buildings are still being used, although have gone through some changes.

The Colorado River flows through the Grand Canyon, AZ
The Colorado River is 2330 km (1450mi) long, beginning in the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado flowing to the Gulf of California between Baja and mainland Mexico creating some gorges and canyons as it passed through the Grand Canyon.  It is one of the most important river systems in the U.S. with over 20 dams built on it.

Rocks tell the story with layers of color
It is amazing to see, then try to realize that some of these rocks are nearly two billion years old!  The Vashnu Basement Rocks can be dated back that far and each level, which show as different colors are all dated as to when they were formed with the top layer, called the Kaibab Formation being only 270 million years old! The elevation of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is 2100 M (7000 ft) but doesn’t appear that high as it is a plateau.

The Grand Canyon National Park, a gift from past generations
John Wesley Powell took the first team of explorers down 1000 miles of the Colorado River in 1869 for a geological exploration and although not all stayed with the team, there were five that completed the trip with Powell, going through many of the 120 sets of rapids on the river. Mr. Powell named the Grand Canyon.

Congress established the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919 and it is very impressive to see all that is being done to maintain the beauty of the area through the work done by the park and their volunteers. They consider it a gift from past generations and are doing all they can to preserve it for future generations.

If the opportunity is there for you, I would highly recommend you see the movie at the Grand Canyon Imax in Tusayan, AZ. The 35 minute movie of the Grand Canyon is incredible to see so hold onto your seats, you’re going for a wonderful ride !


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