2009 ULTRA RUNNING ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  ANCIENT COMMUNITIES OF THE VERDE VALLEY
PART 3: TUZIGOOT NATL. MONUMENT

TUESDAY, JANUARY 13

 
Take time to see the sky,
Find shape in the clouds,
Hear the murmur of the wind,
And touch the cool water.
 
Walk softly.
We are the intruders,
tolerated briefly
In an infinite universe.
 
- Native American poem
 
 
 
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 fifteenth centuries.

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 detailed patterns.

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 storage.

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 website for Tuzigoot.

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 galleries.

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 Verde Valley:

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 9 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 Creek).

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

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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