National Park Getaway: Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

By Pam Tripp, Lead Park Ranger, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Museum exhibit with about Gila River Canals with signs and pottery pieces
The museum gives glimpses into the lives of people throughout thousands of years of southern Arizona history.

NPS Photo

Located halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is a small yet powerful site to explore when visiting Arizona. Hundreds of years ago the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People at Casa Grande Ruins built communities, raised families, hunted and gathered food, and eventually turned to agriculture to sustain the growing Hohokam Culture. Canals were dug that used the water of the Salt and Gila Rivers and provided irrigation to the land. This water also provided the opportunity to turn the hard clay soils into adobe structures, that in areas such as Casa Grande Ruins, are still visible today.

A visit to the monument brings you closer to the prehistoric days of native people who, through the use of ingenuity and natural resources, were able to create communities within a culture that spanned more than 50,000 square miles of the Sonoran Desert. Today, at least eight traditionally associated tribes are still connected to the communities of the past, and still live throughout southern Arizona.

Employee doing preservation work on an abode wall
Every two years it becomes critical to apply a new layer of protection to the ruins. NPS staff and volunteers perform preservation tasks on the historic abode structures.

NPS Photo

The monument is home to the only Great House (known as Sivan Vah’Ki to the O’odham people) that still exists among all the scattered communities of the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People. It stands surrounded by the remains of other ancestral dwellings and structures. Visitors can also see the remnants of one of the last ball courts that was built and used in the once thriving community.

The site was first set aside on March 2, 1889, in an effort to protect the site from further vandalism and looting. It was then proclaimed as the nation’s first archeological preserve and cultural site on June 22, 1892, and redesignated as a national monument on August 3, 1918. By 1991, it was recognized as Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

Historic black and white photo of visitors in a horse drawn carriage at abode ruins
The ruins of the impressive adobe structures peaked the curiosity and interest of people for many years, including these visitors to the Great House in the late 1800s.

Year round, but especially during the busy months of December through March, thousands of visitors have the opportunity to visit the park museum, watch the park movie, and walk around a portion of the ancestral ruins. Tours are given daily during the busy season, and occasionally during the hot summer months. Between November and April, the park brings in native demonstrators to show their specific skills and sell their crafts. There is also a Speaker Series every Wednesday from November to April with speakers each week discussing a variety of topics related to Casa Grande Ruins.

The national monument is located in Coolidge, Arizona, approximately 18 to 20 miles east of Interstate 10. The monument is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, October through April, and 9 am to 4 pm daily from May through September except Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.

Last updated: October 29, 2019