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.


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