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Tuzigoot National Monument
On a ridge overlooking the Verde River in central Arizona, you can walk back in time through the doorways of a 110-room pueblo built more than 900 years ago. You'll discover what was once a thriving farming community, where people crafted stone tools, created fine pottery, and designed intricate jewelry. Residents of the pueblo traded with people from hundreds of miles away in a network that brought shells from the Pacific Ocean and scarlet macaws from Mexico to present-day Arizona — to what is now Tuzigoot National Monument.
Tuzigoot was excavated in the mid-1930s as part of a community effort to build a small museum and highlight the resources of Yavapai County. The project, carried out by the Civil Works Administration program, partially restored the pueblo from its unearthed foundations and preserved many of its original features and artifacts. Today, you can walk the paved trails beside the massive stone walls, which were buried by dirt for roughly 500 years. You can even venture into one of the second-floor rooms and onto the rooftop, where you'll discover a 360° view of the Verde Valley.
In addition to touring the pueblo (which you can do virtually if you can't reach Tuzigoot in person), you can explore the Tavasci Marsh Overlook Trail to get a closer view of the largest remaining wetland in the northern Sonoran Desert. Across Arizona, wetlands and riparian habitat are rare because of modern development. Acquired by the National Park Service in 2005, Tavasci Marsh is an integral piece of the ecosystem and is designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.
Be sure to spend some time in the remodeled yet historic visitor center, which reopened to the public on June 3, 2011. The exhibits include interactive kiosks and artifacts from Tuzigoot and other local archeological sites. The incredibly large ollas, or ceramic storage vessels, serve as silent representatives of those who came before us. These artifacts help us connect with the people who once made this place home.
The exhibits were created with extensive collaboration among the National Park Service, tribal affiliates, and other state and federal government agencies. Definitely plan your visit ahead of time, but once you arrive, ask a park ranger about daily programs.
We invite you to experience this piece of prehistory for yourself. During your visit, stop and ponder what life was like in this community, and enjoy the sights and sounds of today’s residents — lizards that race along the paths, birds that sing and soar above the marsh, and the rest of the flora and fauna that bring life to these old stone walls.
By Penny Wagner, Lead Visitor Use Assistant, Tuzigoot National Monument
NPS.gov homepage photo: The precious resource of Tavasci Marsh at sunrise, with the Tuzigoot pueblo and the historic visitor center in the background. (NPS/Case Griffing)