Last updated: June 12, 2016
Today was "site visit day", which is kind of like a field trip day to all of the national parks in the Verde Valley including Tuzigoot, Montezuma Well, and Montezuma Castle. The site visits were lead by my supervisor Krystina Isaac and she provided me with outstanding information every step of the way. I had a great deal of fun and feel very lucky to have been given one on one time with a park ranger like Krystina;every question that I had was returned with an in depth answer, and best of all I knew the information was correct!
The first stop was Tuzigoot, and I had never been there before so I was shocked to see such a well maintained habitation site that visitors could actually walk through! I enjoyed learning about how the native Sinagua people built their roofs;they used different layers consisting of wood, clay, and finely woven mats. I was also surprised to find out that these people didn't use doors, they used hatches on the tops of their houses and reached the hatches by climbing up ladders. I actually like the idea;it would be interesting to see it used on a modern house! Metates are everywhere and there is even an unexpected metate hidden behind a bush;it was used for grinding nuts/ seeds instead of corn which made it more unique. I liked being able to walk into the re- built two story dwelling as it most likely looked very similar back in the heyday of the Sinagua, plus it provided some relief from the heat! The best part of the dwelling though is being able to go on the roof and look all around the valley. The view is spectacular, and it was amusing to imagine that long ago the whole valley would have been bustling with activity from traders, hunters, and farmers.
The Tuzigoot museum is extremely impressive, as it houses many objects that were actually excavated from the site! Visitors are able to see ancient pots, which have been pieced back together, along with arrow heads, bone tools, jewelry, and other goods from the time period. The Sinagua had macaw parrots, which definitely surprised me. These parrots must have been tremendously expensive as they had to come all the way from Guatemala in Central America! The trade network of the time was massive, with most of the tribes in the Southwest exchanging goods, along with some tribes deep in Mexico. I had no idea that these cultures mingled!
The next stop was Montezuma Well, which is way larger than I expected. The still, greenish pool houses organisms endemic to the well which include types of leeches, diatoms, water scorpions, amphipods, and snails. Unfortunately, the water is unsafe to drink, as it is full of arsenic which comes from the limestone surrounding the pool, but this doesn't stop the ducks, turtles, or muskrats from enjoying it! We actually had the pleasure of spotting a Sonoran Mud Turtle basking in the sun. There are cliff dwellings and pueblos all around the well where the Sinagua used to live, but some of the cliff dwellings now house bats;there were some bats hanging upside down in one of the major cliff dwellings, in plain site for visitors. The Montezuma Well path extends behind the Well to a lush area shaded by towering sycamores. The clear stream of Beaver Creek slowly moves by to the right of the trail, and on the left there is another clear stream carrying water from Montezuma Well out next to Beaver Creek, but never actually meeting with it.
The day was finished with a return trip to Montezuma Castle, where we made the 1/3 mile trip around the park. Montezuma Castle looks as magnificent as ever and so do the vacant walls of Castle A. The river appears a bit low and Krystina informed me that it will be completely dry by July, bummer! I had a great day and learned a ton of information on all three sites. It was an outstanding week and I'm thinking that the next one will be just as enjoyable!