Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Sedona and California

by Kathy 17. May 2012 14:52

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Montezuma's Castle & Tuzigoot


The hills surrounding Sedona contain cliff dwellings and pueblo ruins from people who lived here hundreds of years ago. During our few days in this beautiful red rock country, we visited two of those intriguing sites: Montezuma's Castle and Tuzigoot.

Montezuma's Castle is a cliff-dwelling that was built over a period of 300 years, beginning in the early 1100’s.

It is believed that between 30 to 50 people once resided within the 5-story, 20-room structure.

Another 100 people (or so) lived at the base of the cliff in a bigger pueblo that was 6-stories tall, with 45 rooms. All that remains below, however, are various holes in the cliff, some collapsed walls, and a partially reconstructed foundation.

Sebastian in front of the cliff base:

A close-up of the cliff face:

The name “Montezuma’s Castle” was bestowed by 19th century European-American explorers who mistakenly thought that the stone dwellings had been built by the Aztecs from Mexico, so they used the name of the 16th century Aztec leader.

The real builders are known as the “Sinagua” (which means “without water” in Spanish), a name given by a U.S. historian in 1930—not the name that the people called themselves. The Sinagua arrived in this valley around 1125 A.D., joining the agricultural community that had been farming here for at least several hundred years.

Although Montezuma’s Castle was declared a National Monument in 1906, looting and unauthorized excavations continued until the 1920’s. By then, portions of the site threatened to collapse due to dynamite blasts and numerous holes in the floors. Local contractors refused to bid on repair projects because funds were limited and the job was considered too dangerous.

Luckily, a park ranger (Frank Pinkley) and a park custodian (Martin Jackson) cared enough to devote three summers to repairing the structure themselves. They even used their own money when the limited government funds were gone. From 1923 to 1925, with the help of three crew members from the local Apache-Yavapai community, they replastered the front wall with mud from the local riverbed, restored doorways and floors, cleaned the interior and scrubbed hundreds of graffiti marks off the walls.

Here are two National Park Service photos of the site while repairs were being made:

After the restoration, visitors were allowed to climb the ladders and explore the interior of Montezuma’s Castle.

Here are two more National Park Service photos showing visitors in the 1940’s:

The building of nearby Interstate 17, however, led to a surge of visitors that was too overwhelming for the fragile ruins, and visitor access was restricted in 1951. Today, we could only stand below the cliff-dwelling and peer up at the exterior.

With the wonders of modern technology, however, we could take a “virtual tour” of the interior via an interactive video presentation in the Visitor’s Center. Here is Sebastian, receiving a tour:

About 25 miles away in the same fertile valley was another prehistoric pueblo, Tuzigoot, that allowed visitors to climb into the interior rooms. Rather than being built into a cliff wall, however, Tuzigoot covered the mound of a small hill:

By having their pueblo on a hilltop, these Sinagua residents had a good line of sight to other hilltop pueblos and could save the fertile lands below for farming crops of squash, corn and beans.

Between 1000 and 1400, about 40 pueblos flourished in this area, but Tuzigoot is the only one that has been fully excavated. The work was performed in the 1930’s under the CWA.

Like Montezuma’s Castle, the Tuzigoot pueblo grew slowly over several hundred years, with more rooms being added as the population increased. At its peak, there were about 225 people living here, with 86 rooms on the ground level and 15 second story rooms.

Inside one of the lower, recreated rooms:

Here I am with Sebastian and Genevieve on top of the roof—the highest point of Tuzigoot:

We had a 360 degree view of the surrounding valley:

For reasons that remain a mystery, the Sinagua left this area in the 1400’s—abandoning both Tuzigoot and Montezuma’s Castle. No separate Sinagua tribe exists today.

The Hopi community claims the Sinagua as their ancestors, and they believe that the Sinagua migrated further north and blended with the Hopi people.

At the Tuzigoot Visitor’s Center, Ranger John Reid was very generous of his time in answering our questions. Here he is with Sebastian and Genevieve:

The kids took the time to earn Junior Ranger badges at both Tuzigoot and Montezuma’s Castle. Of course, Ben and I received the benefit of learning and exploring right along with them—definitely a “parent perk.”


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Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
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   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
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   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
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   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
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   Hackberry General Store in AZ
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   Holbrook, AZ
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   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
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   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
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   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
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   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
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   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
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   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
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   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
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   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin