Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Montezuma Well National Monument, Arizona

Montezuma Well is a large sink hole that formed at the top of a small limestone hill when an underground cavern collapsed. This well (or bowl) is continuously fed by underground springs that keep the water at 76 degrees year round. Not reading any information about this monument prior to our visit, we were expecting the well to simply be a large hole of water in this arid landscape…but what we found was much more.

There is no fee to entry this monument and no formal visitor center - just a small booth that is manned periodically. Starting at the booth is a paved loop trail with occasional stairs that takes you to the top of the well, along the edge and down the backside looping back to the parking lot. At the top you can see straight down into the entire well and the cliffs that make up the perimeter or walls of the well. From here you will also be able to see small single room cliff dwellings that the Sinagua people built (in the early 1100 CE) in the recesses and caverns of the limestone cliffs.

You can take a path down into the bottom of the well and see a Sinagua dwelling up close. In addition to this dwelling, you can also see where the water actually flows out of the well which maintains its water depth. Following the path back on the top ridge provides straight-on views of the dwellings across the bowl. The path continues down the hill away from the well past several piles of rocks. These piles are the remnants of many multi-room pueblos built along the ridge. It’s fascinating to realize the large community of people that this desert oasis must have supported. At the bottom of this hill you have the choice to return to the parking lot or go down some stairs to the place where the water from the well exits the hill.

Choosing the latter, we were surprised to find that the Sinagua people built an irrigation canal starting at this water outlet. This canal continues along the creek for a mile where the water was used to grow crops in fertile valley fields. The canal is still flowing with water today and we learned that it is still used by nearby residents and pastureland. Exploring and experiencing the ruins along this loop trail gave us a glimpse into how hard working and ingenious these people were to be able to thrive in this harsh environment. Montezuma Well is a definite stop when you're in the area.

1. Unfortunately, due to numerous stairs along the path, this trail is not wheel chair accessible.
2. There is a nice picnic area to the right as you first enter the road to the well. There are plenty of picnic tables near Beaver Creek and under a grove of Arizona Sycamores.
3. Just past the entrance (on the left) is the remnants of a Hohokom pit house built around 1100 which is prior to the Sinagua people habituating this area. May sure you stop and see it.

1 comment:

Jerry and Suzy said...

Suzanne and Brad, we were at the Well years ago when we lived in Phoenix, but that was long ago. Some time when we are in the Verde Valley again we'll get there. I may do some of the hike, but I'd rather go where Big Red can go to help Suzy see the world! We great grandparents have to watch our steps!

Thanks for the good pix and the story, reminding us of this very interesting place.

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