After visiting Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well we drove about thirty
miles west on AZ 30 to the
Tuzigoot (TWO-zee-goot) ruins, an impressive
partially restored pueblo site. It is in the Verde Valley near Cottonwood and Clarkdale, AZ.
In the distance we could see colorful views of the red rock area south of Sedona and snow in the upper
elevations of the Mingus Mountains beyond Cottonwood
Tuzigoot (Apache for "crooked water") is the remnants of a
Southern Sinagua village built between 1125 and 1400 AD on a
long ridge 120 feet above the Verde River.
The pueblo began with a small cluster of rooms and perhaps fifty
people. At its peak around 1400 AD the two-story structure
housed about 250 people in 110 rooms.
The almost fort-like pueblo was built for protection, high on
the bluff with 360-degree views into the valley. There were few
exterior doors; entry was gained by way of ladders through
openings in the roof. That method of construction may have been
more for environmental reasons than wanting to see who was
coming. It kept the interior warmer in the winter and cooler in
the summer. There is no record of conflict with neighboring or
invading tribes in the valley during the twelfth through
The Sinaguan people farmed the lands 150 feet lower in the
valley, using the Verde River to irrigate their crops. Nearby
Tavasci Marsh may have provided additional food from waterfowl
and other animals. Other housing ruins are visible in valley in
the foreground of the next photo:
We went into the pueblo-style visitors' center first to learn about the site
and to view exhibits showcasing items archeologists have
excavated nearby: stone and bone tools, pottery,
textiles, shell beads and bracelets.
The Southern Sinagua were talented artisans. Besides making
functional axes, knives, hammers, and other tools from stone and
animal bones, they also fashioned awls and needles to sew
handsome garments and blankets (similar to those below) from cotton they wove into
Other decorative items found include jewelry made of shells,
turquoise, and argillite (a local red stone) and plain but
highly polished reddish-brown pottery used for cooking and food
A CLOSER LOOK
Jim, Cody, and I walked up the paved path to the ruins. The
trail loops around the upper portion of the pueblo.
At Tuzigoot, visitors are allowed into the rooms and can walk up
stairs built in modern times to the second story. Today a
volunteer was at the top to answer visitors' questions and point
out landmarks in the distance.
The pueblo expanded over a 400-year period as the population grew.
It appears they just kept adding on rooms as needed. At its peak
around 1400 AD it stretched about 500 feet from end to end and
was a hundred feet at its widest point.
The next two views look down the hillside into rooms that were
added on as the structure expanded.
This is a close-up of one of the cobble walls built from
indigenous limestone and sandstone and held together with mud
from the bottom of the nearby river:
When we got back down to the visitors' center Cody and I
continued on for another half mile in the other direction toward
Tavasci Marsh. There were good views of the ruins along that
paved path, too:
The visitor center and other buildings in
the foreground were built in the pueblo
style to blend in.
TIPS ON VISITING TUZIGOOT
Like Montezuma Castle, this impressive monument is open daily
except Christmas. Admission is $5 per person over 16 years of
age, or $8 for a combo ticket with the Castle. We consider the
combination ticket to be an excellent value. Children under 16
and those with one of the types of National Park passes get in
free -- an even better value!
We didn't know if we'd have time to see these two site and
Montezuma Well (which is free) in one day since we had a
two-hour drive each direction from our campground. We looked at
almost everything at each site (except the old pithouse and the
Outlet at Montezuma Well, doggone it) and read most of the signs
along the pathways and in the visitors' centers and still got
done in about four hours. That includes the time it takes to
drive between the monuments, too. If V-Bar-V site had been open
today, we would have had time for it, too. Your mileage may vary
if you wander around more slowly or read every word on every
display in the visitors' centers.
The paved paths at Tuzigoot appear to be accessible for those
who are pushing a baby stroller or are physically challenged in
some way (bad knees, walker, wheelchair, etc.). You can see in
the photo above that there is some slope going up to the pueblo
remnants but there aren't any stairs except getting up to the
top floor. The path to the marsh is flatter.
There were only a few other visitors around noon today at
Tuzigoot. I didn't see any figures regarding the number of
visitations at this site. I'd guess it's as popular as Montezuma
Castle, though, so avoid visiting on the weekend in the spring
and fall, if possible, especially if you want photos without
strangers in them.
For more information, including directions, check out the NPS
THE SCENIC ROUTE BACK HOME
By now it was well into the noon hour. We'd accomplished quite a
bit! We asked the ranger in the visitors' center for restaurant
recommendations. We chose a Mexican place in nearby Clarkdale
called Su Casa that was good, but not as good as Rosa's in Mesa.
We had plenty of time left in the day. We decided to take a
longer, more scenic route back to McDowell Park.
We headed toward Jerome and the Mingus Mountains on AZ 89A
for a little trip back memory lane. This is a partial view of
our route from the top of Tuzigoot. The buildings in the
foreground are in Clarkdale. Farther up the mountain in the
middle left if part of the old mining town of Jerome, which lies
at 5,435 feet.
The last time we visited Jerome was in March, 2001 when we ran
the Crown King Scramble ultras, wandered around interesting
towns like Jerome and Sedona, and ran/hiked down into the Grand
Canyon. All I remembered about Jerome was narrow streets and
funky buildings. It hasn't changed!
Expansive view of the Verde Valley and some
trophy homes from Jerome. Tuzigoot is down there somewhere.
In its heydey as a copper mining town in the first half of the
1900s Jerome had a population of about 15,000 people. When the
primary mine closed in 1953 Jerome became almost a ghost town.
It reinvented itself when artists and other business people
restored the old buildings into shops, museums, studios, and
We wandered around for a few minutes, enjoying some of the more
unique buildings and art.
Next we headed west and south over the Mingus Mountain Range on
scenic route 89A. As we climbed higher Jim stopped at an
overlook so I could get this shot looking back east toward the
As we climbed higher we could see snow contrasting with the dark
green evergreens over 6,000 feet in elevation. Goody!
When we had the chance to pull over we let Cody out to play in
the snow. It took him a little while to remember what it was
like to eat and roll around in the fluffy white stuff but he
immediately took to playing "catch the snowball" with Jim.
We got up to almost 7,000 feet at Mingus Pass. The road was
clear but it winds around a lot. We were happy we weren't
pulling the camper there or on the narrow streets of Jerome. We
descended through the Black Hills into Prescott Valley, turned
south on Fain Road, southeast ast on AZ 69, south on I-17, east
through Carefree and Rio Verde to McDowell Mountain Park and
"home." The whole trip took 9½
hours, including lots of miles through north metro Phoenix.
MORE SINAGUA SITES TO SEE
Next winter when we're visiting Arizona I want to return to
Montezuma Well to see the pithouse and Outlet, the V-Bar-V site
(over a thousand well-preserved petroglyphs), and several
northern Sinagua sites near Sedona and Flagstaff: Palatki
(cliff houses, petroglyphs and pictographs dating back to 11,000
BC), Honanki (multi-story cliff house ruins), Wupatki and Wukoki
pueblos (large structures similar to Tuzigoot), and Walnut
Canyon (cave and cliff dwellings deep in a canyon above Walnut
All these sites are at higher elevations; visiting them
will be dependent on snowfall. The roads are more primitive to
several of these sites than the ones we drove today. This winter
northern Arizona got several big snowstorms while we were in the
Phoenix area (4X the normal rainfall there) so we were hesitant
to go any farther north than we did today. We were kind of
pueblo'd out by the time we finished seeing Tuzigoot. It'll take
a couple trips to see the remainder of the sites.
Next entry: farewell to Phoenix
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil