Montezuma Well National Monument

Do you love beautiful, easy trails, history, and stunning views? Then Montezuma Well near Sedona, AZ is a must-see national monument.

Montezuma Well National Monument

Those spots are ducks. They swim in Montezuma Well, but fish can’t live there.

Montezuma Well National Monument Open Holidays

We did not expect National Monuments to open on a holiday. We were wrong. National Parks here are only closed on Christmas Day.

There are three National Monuments to visit all within about 30 minutes of Sedona. We took two days to visit them all, Thanksgiving and the day after

Darlene and I hit the road heading to the National Monuments. Within a 30 minutes drive on Highway 179S to US 17S, we came to Montezuma Well. Despite the brisk breezy morning, by 1:00 we did not NEED jackets.

Montezuma-Well National Monument map

Map of National Monuments near Sedona, AZ

On an easy scale of 1-10, the trail was a 2. As you can see, there are a few steps. Someone in a wheelchair could not navigate the trail without help.

montezuma-well-National Monument trail

Marsha rates the trail’s Easy level at 2.0.

The sign might be for the snakes. However, they were not reading well. No snakes appeared that day!

montezuma-well-National Monument

It’s a long way down to look at ducks, but there is a fence on the platform.  We felt safe.

The ducks had a splashing good time. An alien cactus watched them. I thought the ducks were fighting. Another visitor told his wife they were not. I’m not going to speculate or confirm what they might have done. Maybe they were playing “Duck, duck, goose.”

montezuma-well-National Monument trail

Some brave souls hiked along the side of the cliff in the background.

We did not stay at the Monument long. There was no museum or information at the site. Neither of us wanted to hike down to the water. A klutz like me needs railings on a cliff trail. Oops! Trail rating 4.5 out of 10.

montezuma-well-National Monument concrete path in the desert

The desert supports varied plant and animal life. The plateaus in the background used to house hundreds of small settlements.

Montezuma Well Monument Hosts Wildlife

At first glance, the countryside along the Monument path seemed barren to me. It had rained hard earlier in the week. There was no residual sign of water. Darlene, who loves the desert, did not agree with me. She pointed out that the rich red soil, without the help of irrigation, hosts hundreds of plant and animal species.

“Mostly snakes, Darlene.”

“Mostly lizards, Marsha. They won’t hurt you.”

We did not veer off the trail to find them. I CAN read and I did NOT want to encounter a snake. The ancient trees amazed me!

Montezuma Well Monument tree

Tree withstood years of wind stood beside the path.

As we approached the platform overlooking Montezuma Well, this tree fascinated me with its swirls and cracks. I look in the mirror at the cracks and wrinkles on my skin that deepen daily. Products don’t stop them! Will I become fascinating, too?

Visit All Three Monuments

At the Tuzigoot National Monument Museum, we played with an interactive map. It showed that these cliffs you see in the background of the picture above housed thousands of native people long ago. The people mysteriously disappeared. Probably ancient astronaut theorists would speculate that they were aliens.

montezuma-well-National Monument, Swallet Cave

Swallet Cave contains nine rooms.

Researchers said the cliff dwelling, Swallet Cave, dated back to 1050. Evidence shows that the Sinagua “Mystery People” disappeared around 1425. Historians speculated there was not enough water to sustain large populations.

Later, I read in Images of America Montezuma Castle National Monument by Rod Timanus that the two springs feed the well. Water seeps pours out at about that same 1,000 gallons a minute rate. This keeps the well steady at over 13.5 million gallons of water.

Darlene and I mused about the Sinagua, “People of Long Ago,” or “Mystery People.” Sinagua means without water in Spanish.  How could they have lived here? We saw water at all three monuments. Obviously, we could see water in Montezuma Well. However, we read that the well has arsenic and a high concentration of carbon dioxide in it.

Darlene and I debated how much arsenic would poison the people. Did the water ALWAYS have arsenic? Did it become more concentrated with use?

We need to research more to answer those questions.

After the Sinagua Disappeared, Before the Monument

Different people came and went in the centuries after the disappearance of the “Mystery People.” No one stayed long enough between 1425 and 1860 to make their mark.

Americans who arrived in Arizona in the 1860s conflicted with the Apache natives in the Verde Valley. During one conflict a group of settlers found the well and surrounding cliff house.

The US Army came to protect the American settlers in 1866 and brought with it archaeological interest. The nearby Hopi tribe knew about the well and cliff home. According to Rod Timanus, they had no connection to the “Mystery People.”

montezuma-well-National Monument, Swallet Cave

Close up view of Swallet Cave

Sadly, within a few years, artifacts disappeared, squatters squatted. William Beck bought the property for the trade of two horses in 1895. In 1915 William Beck turned his property into a tourist site. His home became a store. He sold the artifacts he found on the surrounding property. For a fee of $.50 he rowed visitors around the lake stocked with fish. His fish died because the water had more carbon dioxide than oxygen.

According to Images of America, Verde Valley Roosevelt set aside Montezuma Castle as a National Monument. The National Park Service Service (NPS) bought the property in 1943 and created Montezuma Well National Monument. The NPS completed the monument loop trail which extended to Swallet Cave in 1952. You can see them in Timanus’ book.

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Always Write Links Travel Stories to Photo Challenges
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  • Cee picked Duck Duck Goose as the theme for her Fun Foto Challenge this week. You have to use a magnifying glass, but we saw ducks, and it LOOKED like they were playing.
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  • If you enjoy photography, please go check out the folks on Cee’s site who take part.

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