We had a one night stopover in Bakersfield, California at Shady Haven RV Resort ($29.50/night with Passport America) then headed to Three Rivers, California. Three Rivers Sequoia RV Park ($51/night with Good Sam’s) was our base camp to capers in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. While spring had arrived and the flowers were blooming, there was still a lot of snow in higher elevations with many roads and trails closed. It was a great visit, with beautiful vistas so all is good. As I always say, get those national park passes as visiting the two parks will cost $70 per car. Those passes pay for themselves in 4 park visits. Well worth it.
84% of both parks are considered wilderness areas. Sequoia covers 404,064 acres and became a national park in 1890. Kings Canyon is 461,901 acres and became a national park in 1890 as General Grant National Park. The name was changed to Kings Canyon in 1940. Of the two I preferred Kings Canyon. It has an ethereal feeling about it and the vistas and waterfalls are spectacular. We spent one and a half days in Kings Canyon and it was well worth it as the pictures will show. Just know that the pictures don’t do it justice. Sequoia and Kings Canyon run contiguous to each other so that was a plus.
Sequoia contains most of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range and has Mount Whitney which has the highest elevation in the United States of 14,505 feet above sea level. The giant sequoia trees are a marvel and the park contains 271 caves, some of which are open to the public. All caves were closed due to the late snows. It just means that I’ll have to go back! There is abundant wildlife and while I was resting on a steep climb up on one of the open trails I was visited by a friendly chickaree, a little squirrel like guy. He was interested in my camera pack. I didn’t see him until a couple of people stopped to take pictures. He was within an inch or two of my shoulder. Cute little bugger.
The first group of pictures are Sequoia National Park. The 2,200 year old General Sherman Sequoia was amazing. 275 feet tall, trunk diameter of 36.5 feet and weighs 1,385 tons. Wow!
Kings Canyon National park has great winding roads and steep cliffs so we had to drive with care. We met a few cars on curves who were on our side of the narrow road. Bless their hearts. I really enjoyed this park and would love to go back again. The pictures don’t do it justice.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Stay tuned for Yosemite and Crescent City, California. Thanks for visiting!
Welcome to Part two of the Desert adventure. I was remiss in not mentioning (in part 1) that China Ranch has the best date milkshakes on the planet. After traveling in the hot dry air of the desert there is nothing more refreshing than a freshly made China Ranch Date shake. Honestly. Yum!
After the Goldwell Open Air Museum we took a day for Titus Canyon in Death Valley. To see and experience the Canyon you need an early start and a whole day. Titus Canyon is accessed by a 27 mile one way (east to west) gravel, rock and 4 wheel drive road. I love dirt roads so this was an adventure. To top it off, there is a section in Titus Canyon that has PETROGLYPHS which were picked by the Timbisha Shoshone! The Canyon is a deep gorge in the Grapevine Mountain section of the Mojave Desert. The canyon was formed during the Cambrian era 500 million years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the place.
Leadfield is a ghost town we passed through on the east side of Titus Canyon. It was an unincorporated area 4,058 above sea level. The Western Lead Mine Company, particularly CC Julian, promoted a get rich quick scheme through false advertising to get investors. The town formed and boomed to a population of 300 in 1925 and was abandoned in 1927 as the mines closed (not productive). Mr. Julian simply disappeared. Even in the 1920s if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. The only person to make money was Mr. Julian.
We traveled through the Stovepipe Wells settlement on our way to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. When most people think of deserts they think of sand. Death Valley is less than 1% sand dunes. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is expansive and impressive. There are three kinds of dunes there: crescent, linear, and star shaped. It is also a protected wilderness area but they do allow people to go out on the dunes. Very nice. Bring plenty of water!
Next we were off to explore the Harmony Borax Works ruins. It is located at Furnace Creek Springs in Death Valley and it is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Borax was discovered there in 1881 by Aaron and Rosie Winters with William Coleman and Francis Smith obtaining mining rights. They were the original twenty mule team borax folks. The operation began in 1883 and collapsed in 1888.
Manzanar Internment (Concentration) Camp was a very somber experience. It is one of 10 camps where 110,000 Japanese Americans were held from December 1942 to 1945, during World War II. It is now called the Manzanar National Historic Site. This is a sad history of a dark time in our country. Reading and viewing the exhibits was overwhelming. How could this have happened in the United States of America? Can it happen again? We don’t tend to learn from our historical mistakes.
We took a day to experience the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade. The Dam is amazing and it was a great tour. It is on the Colorado River and borders both Nevada and Arizona and was built during the great depression, 1931-1936. It is a marvel, even by today’s standards. One story of interest to me was the Hoover Dam Dog. He was a part lab puppy that was born in 1932 in the crawlspace under the police department of Boulder. One of the workers started bringing him to the dam every day. The pup came and went with the workers each day and the commissary started making lunch for the pup. He carried his lunch bag along with the men. He went to sleep under a truck on February 21, 1941. He was accidentally run over and is buried on site at the dam and was honored with a plaque above his tomb. Hardened construction workers broke down in tears over his death and are responsible for making a place of honor for him at the dam.
The Chicken Ranch! No trip to Pahrump is complete without checking out the Historic Chicken Ranch Brothel, so we did. Got the tee-shirt! It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. We had to be buzzed in and out through the gate and the front door. It was a nice place to have a coke and get some souvenirs. And that’s all I have to say about that.
Lastly, we had a divine lunch at the Pahrump Valley Winery at their Symphony Restaurant. The food was deliciously savory and the ambiance outstanding as was the wait staff. It was a special gift that we gave ourselves. Well worth it. Give it a try if you are in the area.
That wraps up our Pahrump, Nevada adventures. Good fun was had by all! Please stay tuned for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Thanks again for reading.
Our base of operations for these adventures was Wheel Inn RV Park ($27/night with Good Sam’s) in Fredonia, Arizona. It was just a few miles from Kanab, Utah and about 3 miles from the Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation. The reservation is semi arid with natural springs on a little over 120,000 acres. There are five tribal villages on the reservation.
The owners of Wheel Inn RV Park were great. The husband, Eric, stopped by to talk to us about local roads, some of them dirt lanes, and places to eat. He shared very useful information and we were happy to have it as he told us how to get around to sites, even with road closures. He recommended Houston’s Trails End Restaurant in Kanab, a locals’ favorite. The food was delicious and the waitstaff was outstanding. We were also allowed to modify menu offerings to fit our needs and there was no fuss about it. I recommend eating there but go hungry!
We had planned to visit the North Rim of the Grand Canyon but due to late snows, the North Rim was closed. Parts of Bryce Canyon National Park was closed at the 11 mile mark at Natural Bridge and many of the trails were closed to hiking. Zion National Park was in full spring blooms. We just altered daily plans and went where we could. This was a wonderful area and we had a blast. Bryce Canyon National Park was cold and snowy, we wore jackets and scarfs. Zion National Park was warm tee-shirt weather. Each day it seems we had extremes in weather. We were prepared.
The first day we traveled on the Highway 12 Scenic Parkway. It is considered one of the most scenic roads in the United States and was named “All American Highway” in 2002. Highway 12 runs through Dixie National Forest and two national parks: Bryce Canyon and Escalante. It’s simply breathtaking. We traveled through Red Canyon, Panguitch and Bryce Canyon National Park. We did some hiking but many trails were closed due to late snow. It was still a great experience.
At Inspiration Point I met a woman from South Carolina who had a finance position at Coastal Carolina University but now lives in Arkansas. I retired from finance at Horry Georgetown Technical College, just across the street. We had a nice long talk. It certainly is a very small world.
Off to Zion National Park for our next caper. So far, this is the best place I’ve visited on this trip. I can’t explain the feelings and oneness that I felt with nature and the universe while there. Telepathically, I communicated with my dear friend, Liz, who appreciates this place as much as I do. It was simply wondrous! One of my favorite things was sitting on the bank of the Colorado River on a flat rock, reveling in the quiet beauty. Zion was in bloom and gorgeous. I’d like to add that my travel partner has some issues with oxygen at high altitudes. The Park Rangers issued us a pass to drive through the Park so that he wouldn’t have to shuttle on and off the buses with his pack. We had our own private tour and we saw much more of the park and trails. We didn’t know that the National Park Service had this service. What a great bit of information to have.
We visited the reservation (they had the best deal on diesel fuel) and took some scenic drives. It was time to move to a new base and new excursions. Next up: Pahrump, Nevada where weed, prostitution, and gambling are legal. Death Valley/Mom’s Diner/China Ranch/Ghost Towns/Titus Canyon…. Stay tuned!
Our home for the next few days was Thousand Lakes RV Resort ($36.45/night with Good Sam’s) just outside of Torrey, Utah. Torrey has a population of 180 with median household income of $47,369. It’s a good place to anchor for day trips to surrounding areas.
The weather was a little unpredictable with snow and flurries on higher elevations and warmer weather in the valleys. That didn’t slow us down one bit. An interesting thing happened at the Torrey Trading Post. As we were leaving, after a very long day, we were approached by two ladies from the local paper. They talked to us about our visit and took our photo for the paper. It was a nice exchange. Almost famous!
The first day we visited the Fruita Mormon settlement and the Fremont area of the Capitol Reef Park. The Mormons settled the area near the juncture of Fremont River and Sulfur Creek in 1880. The group was led by Nels Johnson and originally called the settlement “Junction.” The name was changed in 1902-1904 to Fruita because of the large orchards that were established by the Mormons on the Fremont River. The town was abandoned after World War II with just a few buildings remaining. This is a beautiful area with large herds of mule deer and Petroglyphs. If you’ve been following my blog you know I love petroglyphs.
We rode out to the Grand Wash Trail, a nice trail that weaves in and out of a dry river bed or wash, known as the Waterpocket fold. We took the Grand Wash Road, a winding dirt and rock road out to the trail head. The trail is about 2.2 miles one way but well worth it. It’s rated as an easier trail but it is rocky and uneven. Make sure to take a lot of water as it was 89 degrees while we were there this month. Make sure to watch for rains as there are flash floods anytime and the trail runs on a wash. There are petroglyphs and pioneer records on the walls in areas of this trail. I thoroughly enjoyed this hike and was invigorated when finished. The down side as I see it was the total disrespect for the petroglyphs as modern vandals (no other word for it) have ruined many of them by carving their names and dates. Too bad.
Our next adventure was the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This area is one of the most remote in the United States and dinosaur fossils are still being found near there. The latest was found in 2013 and has been dated as 75 million years old. Human settlers have been in the area since the Basketmaker era AD 500. The first white settlers was Captain James Andrus in 1866, when he led group of cavalry to the headwaters of the Escalante River. The Mormons on the 1879 San Juan Expedition passed through the Monument, answering the call to start colonies in southeastern Utah. We visited the Hole-In-The-Rock Museum and it was fascinating.
Some of the roads in the Monument were closed due to late snows but we enjoyed what we could see.
This was a marvelous adventure and I recommend visiting this area. Next up: Kanab, Utah… Bryce Canyon and Zion…. Stay tuned!
What can I say about Moab, Utah, population 5,300 (on a good day)! We stayed at OK RV Resort ($41.65/Day with Good Sam’s) on the outskirts of town. Great resort with great amenities and views. Moab is the mecca for mountain bikers, hikers and off-roaders. I have never seen so many Can-Am, Polaris and jeep vehicles in my life! Oh, and the red dirt. It’s famous!
If you love red dirt, warm weather, and the outdoors you’ll love Moab. The Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse Point State Park are all nearby and make for great adventuring! The town is eclectic and quaint but busy. Two restaurants we enjoyed were The Moab Diner and Hidden Cuisine. Both reasonably priced with good service and tasty fare.
Our first stop was The Arches National Park. What a great landscape! The Arches has the highest density of natural arches anywhere in the world, about 2,000 of them. The Park is on 76,689 acres on the high desert of the Colorado Plateau. It’s a beautiful place to spend some time. The hiking areas are rated easy to extreme but even on the easier trails water and sunscreen are necessities. We averaged hiking a little over 6 miles in an afternoon. Well worth it. Don’t forget to take your National Park Pass or the entrance fee is $35 per car. How do you choose a photo? It’s difficult.
The park’s terrain appears to be rugged and durable but it is extremely fragile. With more than 1 million visitors each year this ecosystem is threatened by those who think the rules about not climbing (without a permit) and walking off existing trails applies to them. The cyanobacteria, algae, fungi, and lichens can be destroyed for decades with a simple footstep off the trail. There is a $20,000 fine if you are caught. Unfortunately we encountered a few of these folks and we did confront them, only to hear, “I don’t care, Ranger Bob.” Even sadder, they had their school aged kids with them. What are they teaching them?
The next day we headed to Dead Horse Point State Park. They also ask that you stay on marked trails to lessen the impact of your visit. Legend has it that cowboys in the 1800s used the point as a corral to round up wild horses. They would round up the horses and drive them across a 30 foot neck onto the point then close the neck with brush and limbs. One of these roundups was disastrous for the horses as the cowboys picked the good horses and left the “scrubs” to die of thirst on the point. The Colorado River is 2,000 feet below the point. The horses could smell the water but could not get to it. No one knows why the cowboys decided to do this. No matter how I look at it, it’s cruelty in the worst form.
Canyonlands National Park was our last excursion while in Moab. It is another beautiful place in the high desert. Canyonlands is divided into four parts: The Maze, Island in the Sky, the Needles, and the Rivers (where the Green and Colorado Rivers converged. These rivers cut deep creating two canyons. We enjoyed the trails and clocked over 5 miles while in the canyon. More pictures:
Hope you enjoyed reading about this outing. Next up: Torrey, Utah with Capital Reef, Escalante at Grand Staircase, Anasazi Museum and more! Stay tuned.
Our base of operations (capers) was Hidden Valley Resort ($16.50 with Coast to Coast) in Tijeras, New Mexico. It was a wonderful place complete with swimming pool. Issue was that there was late snow in the area. We didn’t have time for the amenities anyway because there was too much to see in the surrounding area. The place is beautiful.
We went to Taos the first day and it wasn’t quite a bust because we saw interesting things. We wanted to go to the pueblo but due to unforeseen circumstances they were closed to visitors. Good thing was the Turquoise Trail, which I loved for the beautiful scenery along the Rio Grand and it went “right smack dab” through Madrid. What a place. It’s remote, artsy, eclectic, friendly and I’ve not seen any place like it. The movie Wild Hogs was filmed there and now I know why. Check it out, it’s where all the old hippies are. Truly!
The next day was Pueblo of Acoma (Sky City). It was a beautiful drive to the reservation and the Pueblo did not disappoint. The Pueblo is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is one of the longest occupied places in the United States. The Acoma tribe has occupied this mesa for over 2000 years. Currently 35 people still live there with no electricity or running water. There are 3 rock cisterns that collected water for the community.
You can’t visit without a guide but that is a good thing as it controls access and preserves the the place. Our guide’s ancestral home is there and she shared a lot of information. Acoma language is Keresan but most speak English as well. The elders also speak Spanish as they were forced to do so under Spanish occupation. We met several of the people living there and I bought a wedding vase made by Nancy Thompson, an elder. She graciously let me photograph her, she was a lovely and gracious Acoma woman.
The Acoma are descendants of the Ancient Puebloans and Mogollan cultures with the oldest buildings in Sky City being built around 1044. The Spanish tried to claim the area in 1539 but the Acoma were wary. Spanish officer Juan de Zaldivar was eventually killed by the tribe so on December 20, 1598, when Oñate learned of the death, he planned an attack of revenge on the tribe. The attack was encouraged by the friars of the area to teach other pueblos a lesson. The Spanish came to Acoma with 70 soldiers and the Acoma Massacre went on for three days. 800 Acoma people were killed and 500 were imprisoned. The Spanish ordered that all Acoma men over 25 years old have their right foot chopped off and they were forced into 20 years of slavery. Males aged 12–25 and females over 12 were taken away from their parents and forced into slavery for 20 years. Philip III of Spain later exiled Oñate from New Mexico for mismanagement, false reporting, and cruelty. European settlers? What can I say? And, they thought the Native Americans were the savages.
The tribe was then forced into Catholicism and if they were caught practicing their ceremonial heritage, they were executed. The Acoma learned to hide their Kivas (ceremonial spaces) inside homes and had a network of lookouts so they could still practice what they really believed. Who were the savages? Just a thought.
This is a great place to learn a little history. Go if you can.
After filling our brains with Acoma history we decided to take a day for the Petroglyphs. Ray woke up “under the weather” so I headed out on my own. The Rangers recommended Piedras Marcadas Canyon (Canyon of Marked Rocks) so with map in hand I drove over. The map and the ranger indicated that the trail was 1.5 miles round trip. It was more like 2.4 according to my fit bit. This is desert terrain with hills, rocks and wildlife. I was fortunate enough to have the place mostly to myself, which allowed me to meditate and really absorb what I was seeing. One recommendation is to take a lot of water and take your time so that you can see everything. I was there for about 3 hours. If you run from point a to b on the map you will miss the experience.
Paleo-Indians were in the area over 12,000 years ago. The petroglyphs span a period of 3,000 to 300 years old. After contact with the Spanish, petroglyphs showed men on horseback. It’s all quite interesting and I find viewing petroglyphs is a spiritual experience.
Next up, Pueblo Cultural Center. Great place to learn about the pueblo peoples. The museum is outstanding. I am a big fan of the storyteller figures. Each one tells a story.
Santa Fe is a beautiful arts community and has a lot to offer. We ate a marvelous lunch at Tia Sophia’s. Highly recommend the Chili Rellenos. Be prepared for the spice. The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is a must see, we were blown away at her mastery of art and life. I managed to purchase a beautiful Navajo inlaid dragonfly pendant, which means a lot to me. Take some time and explore this great place.
We spent a day at Bandelier National Monument. What a cool place with cliff dwellings, ancient pueblos, petroglyphs and pictographs all in one location. It’s an easy hike, moderate climb and you must take a lot of water. This place is exceptional. While Paleo-Indians were in the area as long as 10,000 years ago, the ancient puebloans didn’t build permanent structures here until 1150 AD. The monument is located in Frijoles Canyon on the slopes of the Jemez Volcanic field and covers 50 square miles. I was reminded to define petroglyphs (etchings and pickings on stone) and Pictographs (drawings with dyes), Bandelier has both.
I hope you have enjoyed these escapades! Stay tuned for Aztec New Mexico!
Welcome to Part II of the Mesa Verde experience. What a fabulous journey we are on. Next up: The Valleys of Mancos and Montezuma, plus Mesa Verde, Navajo Canyon and many more views and pithouse and pueblo sites.
Off we go to explore the homes of the ancients in Mesa Verde National Park. The park is on 52,485 acres, with 5000 ancestral sites including 600 cliff dwellings. Inhabitants of the region: Paleo-Indians 10,000 BCE – 7,500 BCE; Archaic built semi-permanent dwellings 7,500 BCE – 1,500 BCE; Basketmaker 1,500 BCE – 500 CE; Ancestral Puebloans 750 CE – 900 CE; Puebloans 950 CE – 1300 CE.
The population of Mesa Verde was estimated at 1,500 in 675 CE, by the 13th century the population grew to 20,000. Most of the puebloans had migrated out of the area by the 14th century. Those that migrated moved south to Arizona, New Mexico and Santa Fe. Drought and over population led to the migration but archaeologist have found that inter-fighting and fighting with other tribes played a part. Violence and cannibalism peaked between 1275-1285 and was widespread in North America due to global climate change affecting food supplies. I find these facts fascinating.
The Wetherill brothers, cattle ranchers who were considered fair people in their transactions with others, had become friends with some members of the Ute tribe. The Utes allowed them to “run cows” in the valley. In December 1888, Richard Wetherill and his friend Charlie Mason spotted the Cliff Palace from the top of Mesa Verde. Soon after other sites were found by the Wetherill brothers.
After these discoveries were made Gustaf Nordenskiold a Swedish scholar came to examine the dwellings. He was led to them by Richard Wetherill where he conducted the first scientific anthropological study of the dwellings. Nordenskiold also removed many artifacts and sent them to Finland where they reside today. Mr. Nordenskiold is one of the reasons that we now have the Antiquities Act of 1906. Finland should not have the priceless, irreplaceable artifacts/treasures from our country’s history. I strongly believe they should be returned.
Pictures are worth a thousand words. Enjoy!
This concludes our journey to the Mesa Verde pithouses, pueblos and cliff dwellings. This is a Unesco World Heritage Site, where some of the best preserved ancestral pueblo sites in the United States are preserved. I consider this a must see area. Go and contemplate what life was like for the early settlers of this area. Admire the craftsmanship and the determination that it took to build these places, some of which were abandoned in just 25 years. I promise that you will be emotionally moved with the experience. Until next time!…..
The Grand Canyon Trailer Village is inside the Grand Canyon National Park near the South Rim. We paid $53.38/night as a Good Sams Member. On the drive to the Canyon it started getting colder and there was snow on the ground in many places. We were really excited to be on this adventure. We made a stop in Williams, Arizona on the way up and had an excellent, spicy meal at El Corral on Route 66. I highly recommend stopping in Williams to poke around and have a meal at El Corral.
One of the good things about staying in the park is the the free shuttle service. You can hop on and hop off and get all around, except for the eastern most point on the rim at the Desert View Watchtower. We spent our time there hiking/exploring the south rim and taking a trip out to the Desert View Watchtower. We average 5 to 6 miles a day hiking in different areas. So beautiful.
We saw a lot of wildlife on our outings. Elk, Deer, and various birds were in plentiful supply. There were mountain cat crossings and warnings while out in the wilderness. The geology, views, sunsets and almost hourly change of light and clouds over the Canyon were all spectacular.
I am very fortunate to be on this adventure. The places are wonderful as are the people we have met. The interactions with people have enhanced this travel experience. We have met folks from all over the USA, China, Spain, Japan, Ireland, Germany, and others and the thing in common is a love for this country. It’s an experience to be valued.
The best way to share the Grand Canyon is in pictures, though the pictures cannot capture the real beauty and awe of the place. Please enjoy.
Sunset at center of South Rim on the 17th. Hanging out on some rock outcroppings.
The following were taken on our way out to and of the Desert View Watchtower on the eastern most point on the South Rim. We encountered a herd of about 20 elk and were able to get close (safely).
We stopped by Tusayan Pueblo/Ruins on the way to the Watchtower. The ruins date to 1100 CE. The Tusayans are ancestors of the Hopi Tribes.
Views between Tusayan and Desert View Watchtower.
Desert View Watchtower, designed by Mary Colter in the late 1920s and opened in 1932. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. Mary was ahead of her time and has designed architecture all around the south west. The interior artwork was created by Hopi artisans. It stands 70 feet tall and has a 100 mile panoramic view of the Painted Desert.
On the way back to the RV.
Headed to Hermit’s Rest, the far west point of the South Rim. Hermits rest was built in 1914 and was designed by Mary Colter and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was a place of respite after a long trail.
This happened in the evening after we returned to the RV. Elk traveling through. I was sitting at the picnic table about 8 feet away.
This concludes our Grand Canyon adventure for now. We plan to be on the North Rim in about 2 months when they open. Too much snow at the moment and the North Rim is closed. Stay tuned for our next adventure: Mesa Verde/Mancos, Colorado. You’ll be glad you did!
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.