Camp Verde, Arizona: Was Montezuma Castle really Montezuma’s Castle? A Look Into This Cliff Dwelling

Camp Verde, Arizona: Was Montezuma Castle really Montezuma’s Castle? A Look Into This Cliff Dwelling

There are so many noteworthy national monuments located in Arizona! It’s probably a known fact that a lot of them are associated with the Native Americans. Not too long ago, I discovered there’s one really unique national monument that is located in the city of Camp Verde. What looks like a home built into the white cliffs of Camp Verde is a discovery that European-American settlers had thought of as a connection to the Aztec emperor Montezuma. We will get to that in a little bit.

Montezuma Castle is a cliff dwelling embedded in a limestone cliff at 90 ft high. Created as one of the earliest national monuments, it was declared as one on December 8th, 1906. On October 15, 1966, it was also added onto the National Register of Historic Places.

Upon coming here and looking at this national monument, this “castle” situated above your head, as you look up, is a wonderous stone creation to marvel at. It’s entirely constructed with limestone. The early visitors of this Montezuma Castle have taken artifacts to keep as souvenirs and damage was created within the castle’s structure by tourists to find more artifacts. There also used to be access granted to visitors to climb up into the monument with ladders to see the rooms back in the 1940s and they were normally assisted by park rangers, providing them with a tour guide. Over these years, there had to be maintenance done to restore the ruin. By 1951, thousands of people per year were visiting and the administrators thought they could no longer serve guides and accommodation to visitors. The rising volume of visitors made it harder for park rangers to watch out for the safety of them, so on October 1st, 1951, the tours of Montezuma stopped.

A backdrop in the visitor center. This is how a room used to look like back then in Montezuma Castle.

This cliff dwelling was built by the Southern Sinagua farmers, a tribe of pre-Columbian people, and they created 20 rooms around 1100 to 1300. This place has a nearby visitor center with a gift shop and inside, you can also view a museum to learn more about the culture of the Sinaguas and how they lived through this time along with learning about the tools to help them build this dwelling. As you’ve learned now, this national monument was not built by Aztec people.

You can walk around the premise around and below the castle and can find walkways that connect to other spaces that the Sinaguas used for access. It wasn’t always known to be the Sinaguas’ property though, especially when the early American settlers came by and re-discovered this structure. First off, this national monument isn’t even really a castle. Let alone the Aztec emperor Montezuma’s. Montezuma Castle served as a high-rise, five-story apartment-like building for the Sinaguas. You can find a diorama of how it looked in the inside displayed in a case right outside the visitor center and nearby Montezuma Castle.

Diorama of what the rooms looked like in Montezuma Castle
It looks like fall weather in Arizona during December.

Right in the surrounding area of Montezuma Castle is a creek, where Sinaguas used to use it as a reliable source of water. You can make a walk directly down the path away from Montezuma Castle to find it. Other national monuments that you can discover in Arizona that the culture of Sinaguas have also lived by are Montezuma Well, a limestone sink that resembles a lake, and Tuzigoot, a remnant of their village.

The views in the front of Cliff Castle Casino Hotel

During Christmas Day, my parents, siblings, aunt, and cousin all stayed in a hotel just 5 minutes away from Montezuma Castle called Cliff Castle Casino Hotel after exploring Sedona. From the name of this hotel, you will automatically know it’s inspired by Montezuma Castle. It’s tribally owned by Yavapai-Apache Native Americans. It’s also a great hotel to stay in if you are planning to explore nearby attractions such as the national monuments I mentioned before, Sedona, Jerome, Prescott, and other places by Verde Valley. You’ll enjoy this hotel as much as I did because they have a heated pool, 20-lane bowling area, an arcade, gift shops, cafes and other restaurants, and even a Johnny Rocket’s. And of course, you can find a casino in here, which is really not that common in Arizona at all.

Find A Place to Stay In If You’re Visiting Montezuma Castle!

Booking.com

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