One of the great things about staying here at Camp Verde is we are within driving distance of spectacular sights in all directions. One of the "don't miss" things in the area is a trio of National Monuments that are tributes to the Sinagua people: Tuzigoot, Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well.
Tuzigoot (Try saying that Apache word for "crooked water" three times fast!) is an ancient pueblo that sits high on a hilltop near Clarksdale. On our sightseeing day with Sandie and Jim we climbed the hill overlooking the beautiful Verde Valley and checked out the site of this 1,000 year old ruin. Excavated in the mid-1930s, Tuzigoot is estimated to have been a two-story village constructed of limestone and sandstone. With 77 rooms on the ground floor, the pueblo was home to between 50 and 200 people. With a sweeping view and access to water nearby, this was a choice location to build a home in the desert.
Not far from our park here in Camp Verde stands Montezuma Castle, a five-story, 20-room dwelling built in a cliff recess 100 feet above the valley floor and Beaver Creek. Its name comes from the mistaken belief that the castle had been constructed by Aztec refugees for their emperor. Truth is, Montezuma never ventured this far north. But, the name stuck. Unlike Tuzigoot, which deteriorated in the desert wind and sun, this 900-year-old place remains relatively well-preserved in its natural shelter from the elements. The 35 or so people who called the castle home used tall narrow wooden ladders to gain access to this secure spot with a view.
North of the castle, just east of I-17, you'll find Montezuma Well. It's a limestone sink hole formed centuries ago by the collapse of an underground cavern. Fed by continuously flowing springs, the well supplied crop irrigation to the Sinagua. There are ruins in the walls above the water and the grounds around the well. According to the National Park Service, about 150 to 200 Southern Sinagua people lived here before they mysteriously left.
The mystery these three monuments share is what happened in the early 1400s. With the turn of that century, the Sinagua people abandoned their pueblos. And, as the story goes, no one knows why. Whatever the case, the chance to take a peek today at what remains of their prehistoric lives is a real treat.