We visited Montezuma’s Castle National Monument (picture 1 and 2) which was one of the first national monuments established by President Theodore Roosevelt. The cliff dwellings were built and used by the Pre-Columbian Sinagua people and were occupied from approximately 1125-1400 AD. Its occupation peaked (50 people) around 1300 AD. When European Americans discovered the ruins in the 1860s, they named them for the Aztec emperor (of Mexico)Montezuma II, due to mistaken beliefs that the emperor had been connected to their construction. Neither part of the monument’s name is correct. The Sinaqua dwelling was abandoned 100 years before Montezuma was born and the dwellings were not a castle — they are more like a “prehistoric” high rise apartment complex.
We also drove another 11 miles to go to Montezuma Well (picture 3) which is a natural limestone sinkhole through which some 1,400,000 gallons of water flow each day through two underground springs. The well is 368 feet across and 55 feet deep. The water is highly carbonated and contains high levels of arsenic, so no fish live there, but there are a lot of leeches (gross). Its outflow has been used for irrigation since the 8th century. It was an amazing site to see in the middle of the desert. There were cliff dwellings here as well (picture 4).
The last four pictures are from our EXTREME jeep ride. We rode up a 100 year old wagon trail, climbing over 2000 feet to the top of Mogollon Rim at 7,000 feet. We have this much to say – they have done nothing to the road for 100 years. It was like riding a roller coaster for two hours. It was fun, however, and we got to see the sun set over the valley. Our guide was Indian and told us some fascinating stories about the Hopi Indians and also explained the geology of the area, so we learned something too.