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By Mary Emma Allen - American Roads Travel Magazine

All photo credit NPS

Montezuma Castle

As Jim and I gazed at the ancient dwelling cut into the Arizona mountainside, we felt a sense of awe that earlier people could construct such an elaborate habitation. Montezuma Castle, as this cliff dwelling along Beaver Creek in central Arizona is known, dates back to around 1150 AD, with the height of development occurring in the 1300s.

Not far away are the ruins of another native dwelling that hasnít been preserved and reconstructed. Destroyed by fire, the crumbled ruins nevertheless give you an idea of this extensive community with its multi-family home.

Restored and maintained by the US Park Service, Montezuma Castle National Monument provides an interesting stop as you travel the Southwest. Although itís not as well known, nor as large as Mesa Verde, Montezuma Castle provides you with insight into how the Native Americans lived in that area many years ago around 1300 AD.

Mystery Included

Montezuma Castle from below

Montezuma Castle includes a mystery, too. Although we know who lived there and when, the reason for the Sinagua leaving has remained unknown. In fact, archeologists have been unable to find out what happened to these farmers of the Verde Valley.

The first known inhabitants were the Hohokam. Another group, the Sinagua, were the cliff dwellers who moved there about 1125. By then, many of the Hohodam had migrated to more fertile lands. The Sinagua used the Hohodamís irrigation system and built their dwelling, or pueblo, on the cliffs.

It appears that the Sinagua first built six rooms on the cliff. Eventually they added to this until there were five storys and 20 rooms.

Walking along the path maintained by the Park Service provides a fascinating tour. We gazed up at the cliff dwellings, explored it and Beaver Creek area. Displays at the Park Service building gave us further insight into the life of the tribes who once lived here.

Montezuma Well

Montezuma Well

About six miles upstream from the castle site, youíll find Montezuma Well. This warm spring emerging from the earth has been here for centuries and provided water for the native farmers. They diverted the water and developed irrigation systems from it and Beaver Creek for their crops.

Both the well and the accompanying cliff dwellings are located on the 800-acre tract preserved by the National Park Service.

Discovered by explorers to the Beaver Creek and Verde River area in 1864, Montezuma Castle and Well were visited by a succession of travelers looking for artifacts and anything of value. Much was destroyed and vandalized before the National Park Service took over in 1906.

The Well Outlet Trail

Since then itís become a fascinating place to visit and attracts many people each year who want to learn more about early life and nature in the Southwest.

For more information about Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well and the surrounding Verde River area, visit www.montezumacastle.com .

©2006 Mary Emma Allen

(Mary Emma Allen researches many areas as she and her husband travel throughout the US. Theyíve recently visited Utah, South Dakota, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. E-mail: me.allen@juno.com ; web sites: www.maryemmallen.blogspot.com, )www.quiltingandpatchwork.com, www.alzheimersnotes.com )

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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