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High-Rise Living in 700 AD ~ Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona

Updated on August 15, 2017
Peggy W profile image

Arizona is a fabulous state filled with beauty & natural wonders. Amazing canyons...think Grand!, mountains & desert scenery await visitors.

Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle National Monument | Source

Arizona Vacation

The year that my husband and I decided to head north from the Phoenix area after a Butler Paper Company manager's meeting to see sites like Sedona, Oak Creek Canyon, the Grand Canyon and more, Montezuma's Castle was on our planned Arizona vacation route.

We decided to take a look at this National Monument which is also listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. The name was intriguing to us.

Montezuma Castle National Monument sign
Montezuma Castle National Monument sign | Source

Montezuma was an Aztec Emperor of Tenochtitlan in Mexico (where Mexico City is now located) and reigned from 1502 to 1520, the latter year being the year of his death.

Whether his death was directly due to Cortés and his Spanish troops who were beginning to explore and conquer parts of Mexico for Spanish dominion or the possibility of being stoned by his own people who saw him as being weak against the Spanish invaders is open to question and differing accounts.

The Aztec empire was at its zenith at the time when Hernán Cortés discovered it and began changing the course of history in the central part of Mexico.

The name of Montezuma's Castle has nothing to do with the Aztec ruler in Mexico but for some reason has been given this name. Could it be that the temples and pyramids made of stone by the Aztecs in Mexico sparked this name when this high rise cliff dwelling made of stone and built into a limestone cliff was discovered?

Montezuma's Castle
Montezuma's Castle | Source

Cliff Dwelling

At one time there was a creek in the valley below this Montezuma Castle cliff dwelling which would have provided much needed water for the Sinagua Indians who called this part of Arizona their home. The creek was named Beaver Creek. It disappeared from the surface in the 1400s.

There was a natural overhang with cave like openings high up this stone cliff and the enterprising native Indians decided to make this natural feature more habitable.

Montezuma's Castle National Monument
Montezuma's Castle National Monument | Source

Just imagine the work that would have ensued in hauling up pieces of stone and placing and securing them with facings to the front of the cliff and making room dividers!

Ropes and ladders would have been utilized to access the site in building and maintaining it.

Imagine if you will carrying up daily rations of food and water perhaps with a papoose on one's back!

Of course if one could have enough provisions stockpiled within the rooms of that cliff dwelling, during times of warfare between Indian tribes, it would have been a safe spot far removed from open conflict being as high up the mountain as it was located and quite easy to defend.

The ropes and ladders would simply have been pulled up and easy access denied to marauding enemies.

Photo of me taken by my hubby standing below the Montezuma Castle National Monument.
Photo of me taken by my hubby standing below the Montezuma Castle National Monument. | Source

Camp Verde

This is the location where one can find the Montezuma Castle National Monument.

During the times when settlers were homesteading and growing crops this disrupted the native Indian tribes from their hunting and gathering practices.

A fort was established to help protect the settlers and ultimately to enforce the Indians to stay on reservations. It was not exactly a shining example of how these first peoples inhabiting these Arizona lands were treated.

The remains of these fort buildings are now part of Fort Verde State Historic Park.

The Yavapai - Apache Nation now operate The Cliff Castle Casino.

Montezuma Castle National Monument - Scenery below the cliff dwelling.
Montezuma Castle National Monument - Scenery below the cliff dwelling. | Source

This small town of Camp Verde with a population of just over 10,000 people and located off of Interstate 17 has visitors arriving all times of the year for various purposes.

Showcasing the important Indian legacy, a Starbucks sign hosts the supposedly largest Kokopelli sign image in the world. How about that!

When my German girlfriend and I were traveling from Houston to California and back visiting national parks and more she fell in love with the Kokopelli image and even took souvenirs back home with her. She would have loved seeing this sign!

"World's Largest Kokopelli" at Starbucks in Camp Verde, Arizona
"World's Largest Kokopelli" at Starbucks in Camp Verde, Arizona | Source

Montezuma's Castle

This national monument is comprised of 826 acres although most people like us probably only see a fraction of it.

There is an easy quarter mile paved path from the parking lot which takes one to an area where one can gaze up at this amazing five story structure built up into the cliff.

My hubby on the path to Montezuma's Castle
My hubby on the path to Montezuma's Castle | Source

Supposedly around fifty people used to live there back when it was constructed around 700 AD by the Sinaqua Indians. It was comprised of twenty rooms.

After another 700 years it was deserted.

Was this because the creek below dried up or went underground? Was it due to warring Indians or disease?

Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle National Monument | Source

When the volcano at Sunset Crater erupted the native Indians deserted this part of Arizona for a time. They returned a while later when they realized that the ground was now fortified because of the nutrient rich ashes that had been deposited and which facilitated the growing of corn and other crops.

We may never know the reasons that Montezuma's Castle was deserted but archaeologists will be delving into this mystery for years to come as they discover and research artifacts found on or near this historic site.

Montezuma Castle National Monument

When seeing this cliff dwelling for the first time it gives a whole new meaning to the term high rise living!

Personally I think that the modern day high rises with stair wells and elevators would better suit my aging knees rather than thinking of how these Sinagua Indians had to climb up to their cliff dwelling abode. Cheers to modern conveniences!

It used to be that visitors to the Montezuma Castle National Monument could actually climb up ladders and walk through some of the rooms and see this monument first hand.

But to protect this national monument from damage this type of exploration has been banned for a number of years now which is undoubtedly a good thing.

A museum now shows visitors replicas of what the site looks like as well as displaying interesting Indian artifacts found in this area.

Museum exhibit showing Montezuma's Castle as the rooms inside of the national monument would appear with the stone facing in front removed.
Museum exhibit showing Montezuma's Castle as the rooms inside of the national monument would appear with the stone facing in front removed. | Source

Vacationing in Arizona

I have been fortunate to have been able to vacation in Arizona a number of times and got to once again visit Montezuma's Castle in the late Spring of the year.

My shows Montezuma Castle National Monument with leaves on the trees in the foreground.

Anytime of the year would be a good time to see this 700 AD high rise cliff dwelling built into the limestone cliffs.

Hope that you enjoyed learning a bit about this historic site via the words, photos and videos in this post.

Montezuma's Castle
Montezuma's Castle | Source

Have you ever visited Montezuma's Castle?

See results
A markerMontezuma's Castle -
Montezuma Castle National Monument, 527 S Main St, Camp Verde, AZ 86322, USA
get directions

© 2011 Peggy Woods

Comments are always welcomed!

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    • Peggy W profile image
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      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi SweetiePie,

      That is interesting that a man is now doing that. When you think of it, the native Americans who used caves as a dwelling such as at the Montezuma Castle National Monument were smart. Much of the structure was already there and could be added to for safety reasons and when high up...offered them security as well.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USA

      I love traveling through the American South West. This is a very comprehensive overview of visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument. By the way, there is a man who was in the news recently because he is making livable art caves, so I guess living on a cliff or a cave is back.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      Parts of our town got lots of rain from tropical storm Bill but there was not the serious flooding compared to the earlier rains which did so much damage. It would be nice to be able to have some dry weather for a change. Thanks for thinking of us. Other parts of the country are now feeling the effects of "Bill." Perhaps you got some of it up your way? If you ever return to Arizona, the monument will still be there for you to see.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 2 years ago from North Texas

      Came back to shed some light on this excellent article. With people planning their summer vacations, this would be a great place to visit. I still don't know how I missed going there on any of my trips to and through AZ.

      Hope that storm changes direction for you people down there. I know you don't need any more rain and for sure you don't need flooding. Take care . . .

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      So glad that you liked this. It is an impressive site to be sure! Thanks!

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      Came back to share this excellent article with my followers and to pin it to my 'Travel' board.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi john0000,

      The native American Indians were smart using places like natural cliff overhangs in which to make their lodgings. I can tell from your comment that you have traveled to a number of these sites in Arizona and in the southwestern regions of our country and have a genuine interest. Thanks for your comment.

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 4 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      This is another great travel Hub. I have visited it several times, each time rather in awe of the ancient builders. There are cliff dwellings all over Arizona. The Salado and Anasazi migrated in Arizona and other southwestern areas finding the cliffs a safe and more comfortable place to live. In Walnut Canyon and the Tonto National Monument they could walk to the bottom of the canyon and grow crops in the moist areas.

      It is a fascinating subject. Thanks for the good read.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Au fait,

      Am certain that you would enjoy seeing this unique national monument called Montezuma's Castle located in Arizona. Perhaps next time you go to Arizona you can work it into your travel schedule. Thanks for your votes + share.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I have never been to Montezuma's Castle either, even though I toured other things in the area. A great history lesson here and as usual great photos. If I ever get back to AZ I'll have to be sure to visit this castle. Voted up, interesting, useful for helping people plan their itineraries, and will share with my followers!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Sheila,

      It is truly amazing to think what native Americans did to create their lodgings back in earlier times. Whoever first discovered the cliff overhang and then decided to build on to the front of it was smart. Getting up and down would not have been that easy particularly carrying heavy rocks! Thanks for your votes and share. Hope you get to see this and much more of Arizona someday.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      What an amazing place! I have only been to Arizona once and I am sorry I missed this place. I would love to make another trip to Arizona and see Montezuma's Castle. It amazes me how difficult something like this would have been to make back then. Great information, pictures and videos. Voted up, interesting, beautiful and sharing! :)

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Rajan,

      I know what you mean about constructing places like this without the modern building devices we utilize today. It would have been a Herculean task! Thanks for the shares regarding Montezuma's Castle.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Peggy, I'm always overawed to see the herculean task being carried out to construct all these monumental structures! With none of the modern day technology it was sheer will power that must have goaded on these people, in those times. Really amazing to see these structures still look strong enough to sustain inhabitation.

      Very interesting read and it was a pleasure reading it.

      Voted up and awesome, gave 5 stars and sharing it on G+1.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Eddy,

      So happy to hear that you enjoyed your armchair traveling to see Montezuma's Castle in New Mexico. Appreciate your comment and wishing you a wonderful balance of this weekend in your part of the world.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Hyphenbird,

      That is sad if children's history books are being censored to the degree that the truth of what has happened in history is suppressed. Traveling and getting to see sites like Montezuma's Castle is an experience that is sure to open their eyes to the past and perhaps stimulate curiosity to learn more. Thanks for the compliments on this hub. I appreciate your comment.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Oh wow amazing Peggy and another to save for my favourite hubs (my armchair travelling)slot.

      Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful weekend.

      Eddy.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      You make me want to travel. I have itchy feet anyway but they have been settled the last few years. Some friends and I went out that way many years ago and saw some of these old dwellings. I want my son to experience such things and to keep history alive. Our school history books are so censored that children never know about great works like this unless parents open the doors.Articles like yours are wonderful because they allow us to travel and learn without leaving home which sometimes is the only option. Thank you so much.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello john000,

      Living close to Montezuma's Castle, you certainly live in a gorgeous part of Arizona. Like you said there is so much to do and see of historic interest in that state. Thanks for reading this hub and leaving your comment.

    • john000 profile image

      John R Wilsdon 5 years ago from Superior, Arizona

      I live not far from Montezuma's Castle. Arizona is filled with interesting ancient ruins and history. Your photos are wonderful. I hope I don't run out of places to visit and things to do right here in my own backyard. Voted beautiful.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Prasetio,

      I am happy to be able to present information about places like the Montezuma Castle National Monument to you. You always treat us with such fabulous hubs about new and different sites. Thanks for your comment and votes.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Deborah,

      Enjoy yourself this coming summer at Montezuma's Castle. This is just one of so many interesting and historic as well as beautiful places in Arizona. Thanks for your comment and votes.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I had never heard about this monument. Peggy, you always be my guide. Thanks for always walk in the right line, I mean in presenting fabulous place in USA. I hope I can visit this place one day. Well done and rated up (useful, awesome, beautiful, interesting).

      Prasetio

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      Ok you convinced me I want to go there in vacation this summer.. lol.. great HUB AND GREAT WORK THAT WENT INTO THIS.. great research and what a great history lesson..

      I voted up and awesome

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Cheryl,

      Montezuma Castle National Monument is very interesting as you noticed. It is wonderful that these cliff dwellings have been preserved for future generations of people to see and learn about the Indian ways back then. Thanks for your comment.

    • Cheryl J. profile image

      Cheryl J. 6 years ago from Houston, TX

      Another great historical hub. Montezuma Castle ruins

      is so very interesting and a very unusual preserved cliff dwelling. The photos and videos are very informative. It is amazing to see the stone pueblos still in tact for so many centuries. A great hub.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello travel-O-grapher,

      Glad that you found this hub about Montezuma's Castle detailed and informative. Thanks for your comment.

    • travel-O-grapher profile image

      travel-O-grapher 6 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

      Nice! Very detailed and informative!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Eddy,

      From your comment I gather that you enjoyed learning about the Montezuma Castle National Monument. Thanks! It is indeed an interesting and historic place.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Hi Peggy,

      You are indeed such a creative person and a great writer.

      Thank you for all the effort that you so obviously put into each piece of art.

      Take care and I wish you a wonderful day.

      Eddy.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi thelyricwriter,

      Hopefully you will get to visit the Grand Canyon and sites like the Montezuma Castle National Monument someday if revisiting areas in Arizona. Thanks for your compliments on the quality of my hubs. Appreciate it! Wishing you a grand holiday season!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 6 years ago from West Virginia

      Up, useful, awesome, and interesting votes Peggy. Very well done and informed as all your articles are. If one things is for sure when I visit your writings, they are composed of the highest quality. I never heard of this when I lived out there. I missed out on this one. I always wanted to visit the Grand Canyon area, but never got around to it. At the least, I can visit them in your articles:) Great work Peggy. I hope all is well and happy holidays.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi homesteadbound,

      As far as the older people staying up in Montezuma's Castle and not climbing up and down as often, you are probably right. Of course people did not live as long back then as many of us do now. If they were ill or taking care of babies, the other Indians probably did more of the hauling of supplies to help out. What a life! Hard to imagine from the creature comforts that most of us have become accustomed to having in this day and age. Thanks for your comment.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      Wow! This would be a neat place to visit. I can't imagine having to climb up there carrying supplies. I guess some of the older people would have had to just stay up there and never get down.

      it really does remind me of a castle. Such a neat place to have lived.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Mark,

      I know what you mean when thinking of the labor involved in fashioning rooms out of Montezuma's Castle with no modern equipment available to them. Truly amazing! Those Sinagua Indians would have had to closely work together to accomplish such feats over a period of time.

      They certainly did not have to work out in gyms to get their exercise in those days! Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Just History,

      You have that right! It would not have been that easy to build the walls at Montezuma Castle National Monument nor keep it provisioned back when the Sinagua Indians utilized that space. Glad that I could show you something new. Thanks for your comment.

    • Just History profile image

      Just History 6 years ago from England

      Amazing! Fancy the energy taken to build it and then to provision it- Thank you for such a different insight into America.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Gus,

      A jet airplane flying over Montezuma's Castle would make for an interesting juxtapositioning of the ancient and new. Did you get the photo or wait? Thanks for your comment.

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 6 years ago from USA

      Howdy Peggy - This one is a great article that brings back memories of my visit to this interesting place. I really enjoyed messing around by Buffalo Creek that runs through the place. I made an interesting photo while looking at the dwelling up on the cliff face. Right when I wanted to make the picture, a jet airplane flew over the "castle." Kinda like the new juxtaposed over the old.

      Gus :-)))

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Alastar,

      Montezuma Castle National Monument is surely that...spectacular. Glad that you enjoyed this hub. Hope you get to visit it someday. Thanks for your comment.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      You bring up some good history and questions as to why Montezuma was so named and why the cliff dwelling was abandoned. No one really knows for sure is right. Thanks for bringing this out Peggy, I've never heard of Montezuma's castle and boy is it spectacular. Fort Verde sounds great too. Another one to visit if I can ever get over Arizona's way

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi leahlefler,

      The thought of caring for one's children in that Montezuma's Castle cliff dwelling is what amazed me as well. So happy to hear that you enjoyed this hub, particularly since you have seen it with your own eyes. It is an amazing site! Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hello Derdriu,

      That is an interesting legend about the Aztecs. Thanks for adding that bit of information to this Montezuma Castle National Monument hub. Nice to know that you enjoyed the photos and videos and thanks for your votes.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      Montezuma's Castle is one of my all-time favorite monuments in Arizona! I can't imagine being a parent with a toddler on those high rooftops! My cousin went to flight school in Prescott, so we often took a side trip to the cliff dwellings that the Sinaguans made. It is amazing. Fabulous hub!

    • profile image

      Derdriu 6 years ago

      Peggy W: No one knows the true homeland of the Aztecs. According to legend and oral history, they came from the north, possibly in the areas of modern Arizona and New Mexico. They left to carry out a prophecy that their civilization would fluorish where they found an eagle perched on a cactus, which they did in the area of their subsequent Tenochtitlán.

      So the name may be due to a legend which is based on fact.

      Thank you for sharing the informtion, the photos and the video.

      Voted up, etc.,

      Derdriu

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Gene,

      No doubt about the resourcefulness of the Sinagua Indians in making a homesite out of these limestone cliff overhangs at what is known as Montezuma's Castle. It is an amazing site to see! Just think of the work that it entailed! Thanks for your comment.

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Charles,

      I am not sure what part of Arizona you visited...but dull...never! There is much to do and see there and so much of history like this Montezuma's Castle site.

      As to the cookies...you are most welcome! Thanks for your comment on this hub and others. Appreciate it!

    • Peggy W profile image
      Author

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Darlene,

      Arizona is filled to the brim with natural and man-made wonders. Am sure you would enjoy seeing it someday. Thanks for your comment on this Montezuma Castle National Monument hub and thanks for the compliment on my writing. Appreciate it!

    • profile image

      Gene Jasper 6 years ago

      One of my favorite trips was to see this place. It's a marvelous example of how clever and resourceful these ancient people were.

      Gene

    • profile image

      charles criner 6 years ago

      When I went to Arizona about a month ago I thought it was rather dull. However, after viewing the information that you have provided, I think I am going to schedule another trip. (Thanks for the Cookies, and happy Holidays).........Charles.

    • profile image

      Darlene 6 years ago

      So very interesting. If I ever get to Arizona, I'll be sure and visit. Your photos and writings are superb!