The Sinaqua Indians of the 1400s abandoned their cliff dwellings in Verde Valley Arizona for unknown reasons. It is hypothesized that there may have been a drought or that there was a battle between the Yavapai Indians that drove the Sinaqua from the area. The dwellings are named the Montezuma Castle and were built by the Sinaqua during the 1300s. The area is well preserved and an interesting location to visit.
The name Montezuma Castle was not the name the Sinaqua had for their dwellings. Settlers found the dwellings after they were abandoned and determined they were part of the Aztec empire. They attributed their building to the Aztec emperor Montezuma and hence named the dwellings after him.
Standing below the Montezuma Castle Cliff Dwellings is awe inspiring. The homes are literally carved into the side of a limestone cliff. Historical information provided stated that ladders were placed in strategic locations for the Sinaqua to climb the cliffs to carve out the fortress along with using the ladders to gain entrance. A ladder was placed along the bottom of the cliff and the Sinaqua would climb to a specific location. The ladder was then raised and placed on the side of the cliff. This was done several times in order for the Indians to gain entrance to their village. This type of fortress prevented enemies from attacking the village.The height of the village and the sheer sides of the cliff were enough to let me know that I would not have liked being a Sinaqua Indian.
The Montezuma Castle Cliff Dwellings consists of twenty rooms over a five-story area. A smaller two-story, 77-room Sinquan Village is close by. This smaller village is called Tuzigoot. The remains sit in a recessed area of the nearby cliffs. The rooms at Tuzigoot were accessed by ladders being placed through holes in the ceilings.
When visiting the area, be prepared to stay in the nearby communities of Camp Verde, Sedona, Phoenix or Flagstaff. There is no camping facilities or lodging in the Montezuma Castle Monument area. Camp Verde and Sedona are within 30 miles from the park while Phoenix and Flagstaff are just over 80 miles away.
The park is open daily at 8:00 am with summer closing hours at 7:00 pm and winter closing hours at 5:00 pm. Allow a minimum of four hours when visiting the area. There is a small entrance fee to visit the park for anyone over the age of sixteen.
While visiting the park, make sure the visit the Montezuma Well. This is an area where a large underground cavern collapsed and filled with water. The Sinaqua and Hohokam Indians used the large sink hole for irrigation of their crops. Several ruins of one-room houses and larger pueblos are visible for viewing.