Montezuma’s Castle is another well-preserved ancient dwelling in northern Arizona, near Sedona. The name is a double misnomer, as there is no connection between the dwelling and the Aztec Indians, as was thought when the name was bestowed; in addition, it is not a “castle” belonging to one family, but rather a 5 story, 20 room “high-rise apartment”, housing as many as 35 or more of the Sinagua Indians.
Built into a limestone cliff 70 feet above the ground, the structure is an architectural wonder. This drawing is on one of the interpretive signs. Can you imagine the labor involved to construct the dwelling, and then, how hard it would be to have to maneuver the ladders every time you left home for food or water?
The inhabitants had close neighbors. Just a few feet away once stood an even larger dwelling, with 45 rooms and an occupancy of 100 or more. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed most of it in the 1400’s, not leaving much to see, other than the remains of some of the walls.
Less than 10 miles away is Montezuma’s Well, a funnel shaped limestone sink. The only connection between the two sites are the similar names, although I would think there would have been times when the creek at Montezuma’s Castle would have run dry, and they would have made the trek to the well for water.
Fifty five feet deep and 368 feet across, this body of water in the middle of the desert, fed by underground springs, never goes dry. Astonishingly, a million and a half gallons of fresh water flow into the sink daily; an irrigation canal, dug sometime between 900 and 1400 AD, provides an outlet for the water.
The V Bar V Petroglyph site is only open Friday through Sunday each week; it was Friday, and we were told by a park ranger we shouldn’t miss it. The largest known petroglyph site in the Verde Valley, it was acquired by the National Forest Service recently, in 1994.
Accessible by either the shorter gravel road from the well site, or by pavement, we first tried the gravel, only to find it a very bad “washboard” and backtracked to use the paved road. Even it narrowed as we went on, and the last little bit was gravel.
Had we not just seen Newspaper Rock in southern Utah (see our post on Canyonlands) we might have been more impressed with this site, but the figures are hard to see, and many are obscured by a fungal growth. Still, there is an impressive number of petroglyphs.
Other ancient ruin sites nearby are Tuzigoot and Walnut Canyon National Monuments. Those we’ll save for another trip.