Friday, April 05, 2013

Montezuma, here?

No, not really. But two sites in central Arizona were erroneously given his name. Wednesday we visited Montezuma's Well and Montezuma's Castle National Monument. The well, really a sink hole with a constant flow of 1.5 million gallons of water a day, is a surprising and amazing sight.

Because of the arsenic and carbon dioxide in the underground water supply, no fish live here. But five species of amphipods, scorpions and leeches have evolved in the well that exist nowhere else on the planet. Ducks and other birds are attracted to the water and farmers for over a thousand years have used the water that flows from the well to water crops. Early native Americans from the Hohokam culture and later the Sinaqua settled in the area. There are cliff houses around the well, as well as some pit houses on the mesa top.

Thankfully, the well was evevtually protected by the National Park Service because before that protection, nearby merchants painted their ads on the stones for tourists to see.

The water flows out of the well and into a canal that originally watered fields of corn, beans and squash.

From Montezuma's Well, we drove to the other section of the monument to see Montezuma's Castle. This ruin is a 20-room cliff dwelling that is very well preserved. At one time, visitors could tour the building but it is now only visible from the valley floor to prevent damage.

There were other structures on this cliff wall, including an area called Castle A. Between 85 and 90 rooms once housed a total of perhaps 150 people. By 1425 CE, most of the inhabitants had moved out of these cliff dwellings.

A diorama shows what Montezuma's Castle looked like when it was occupied.

We had a great visit to these two sites. We are never disappointed when we visit our national parks and monuments. They always show us important and impressive places. The visitor center exhibits and other features at this monument are very well done.

While we were viewing the castle, we watched monument workers ascending to the castle to perform maintenance. It was very interesting to see the work it took to get there. That will be a separate blog.

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