• Lower Cliff Dwelling


    National Monument Arizona

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  • Visitor Center is closed

    The Visitor Center and bookstore will be closed for several weeks for construction. A temporary Visitor Center will be set up in the parking lot. The trail to the Lower Cliff Dwelling will be open during this period. No entrance fees will be collected. More »

Life in the Desert

interior view of room

interior view of room

NPS Photo

Everyone needs a place to live, and food and water in order to survive. Since Tonto National Monument was created because of the cliff dwellings, let's start there.

This is a typical room, based on one which burned while it was being used. The walls are made of stone and mud. The doorways are small to help keep heat in. Floors were leveled with dirt, and smoothed with a layer of clay. Near the center of the room would have been a small firepit which would have provided light, heat, and a way to cook food.

The large pieces of wood in the roof are pine or juniper, which were either burned, or cut down with stone axes, and carried to the building site. The small pieces are saguaro ribs, willow branches, yucca stalks, etc., with a layer of grass and mud on top. Around the edge of the roof is a ledge, useful for setting pots on, and keeping children from falling off! People probably spent a lot of time on the roof, since the rooms would have been dark and stuffy.

To see views of the Lower and Upper Cliff Dwellings and some of the artifacts that were found in or near Tonto National Monument, visit our photo gallery.

Did You Know?


The inhabitants of the area in and around Tonto National Monument created beautiful pottery and textiles. Many of the artifacts found here are on display in the museum.