Our new base of operations was Verde River RV ($34.20/day) in Camp Verde, Arizona. It was central to all the capers we had planned for this area. We had to make some alterations to our plans but all in all this was a great few days of exploring history.
We headed up to Jerome early morning of the 13th. Jerome was built in the Black Hills on steep slopes at 5000+ feet above sea level. The population was 10,000 during it’s copper mining days in the 1920s. After the mine played out the population dwindled down to 444. In 1917, when mine workers tried to unionize, the workers were removed at gunpoint and loaded in to cattle cars and railroaded to other areas. It brought a lot of scrutiny to the small town.
Prior to settlement by the Europeans, the area was inhabited by the Hohokam Indians from 700-1125 BCE. The mining brought in a lot of brothels and women were subject to being murdered and their murders never solved.
The town is currently full of art galleries, craft stores, wineries, coffee houses, and restaurants and tourism sustains the community. There is a wonderful history museum on Main Street. Jerome is a nice, friendly kind of place and we had a delicious cup of hot cocoa on a cold, windy day on Main Street.
We spent the next day at Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well National Monuments. These are two are separate sites just a few miles from each other. European settlers who discovered the ruins in 1860 mistakenly thought that they had found Aztec ruins, thus, the name.
The pueblos were built by the Sinagua (Without Water), pre-Columbians, who are related to the Hohokam and other indigenous tribes. The pueblos were built between 1100 and 1425 AD. Main structures were five stories tall and had twenty rooms. Don’t let the dates mislead you about the inhabitants of the region. Prior to building the dwellings, many indigenous people used the caves from about 10,000 years ago. Montezuma Castle is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America and is built in the cliffs above Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Verde River.
This place is a spectacular and a very spiritual site. Native Americans consider it sacred and request that you honor the site with reverence when you visit. We were fortunate that, at this time of year, it wasn’t crowded. One school group from a local private prep school was visiting while we were there. I will not disclose the name of the school, but we tried to avoid them because they were the epitome of the “privileged white kids.” Before the day was out I did email the school to voice my concerns, but, alas, they haven’t chosen to respond. Sad, but we didn’t let them take away from our experience as a whole.
While the prep school kids were having lunch, we headed over to Montezuma’s Well (Yavapai). The Well is formed in limestone by an underground spring, which is somewhat like a sinkhole. The spring supplies 1.5 million gallons of water daily. There are many prehistoric dwellings (700-1425 CE) in the rock rim surrounding the well. The Sinagua were talented farmers and built aqueducts below the Well, along the Verde River. Some of those aqueducts have survived and you can follow them along the river.
The Castle and the Well would make a great addition to anyone’s bucket list. I’m certainly glad we went and saw the amazing work and learned the true history of an amazing people. Go, you’ll be glad you did!
On the way to the well, we stopped by a prehistoric Sinagua Pit House nearby. It dates to 1050 CE. It was a great specimen of pre-pueblo living.
Our next caper was visiting Tuzigoot National Monument. I like learning about our country’s history and I like saying Tuzigoot! Tuzigoot is Apache for “crooked waters.” This is appropriate as Tuzigoot is on the summit of a limestone and sandstone ridge above the Verde River. The Verde River Valley has a rich assortment of Native American ruins all through the valley, an archaeologists dream.
The Tuzigoot pueblo was also built by the Sinagua people between 1125 and 1400. It was three stories tall and has about 97 rooms and was home to about 250 people. Soon after construction stopped in 1400, Tuzigoot was abandoned like other pueblos. The reason for abandonment is still being discussed by experts and there is no definitive answer.
I hope you are enjoying following along on our trip. I am having the time of my life and learning more about our important history. Hope to catch you next time when I share the Grand Canyon excursion. Until next time!