Montezuma Never Saw His Well

We had to entertain ourselves with opened, outdoor attractions in Arizona. As a result Ruth and I traveled north to a well, a castle, and an important National Monument with an unusual name shortly after we arrived in Phoenix. The National Monument called Tuzigoot (pronounced too zee goot) had just restarted its lecture series atop the structure after 2 years, so we benefited from Brian’s knowledge of the area. Dedicated naturalist Ruth received a book about Arizona trees from him.

The large well is a detached unit of the Montezuma Castle complex. The Aztec Emperor not known as a serious traveler surely never saw it. Eleven miles from Montezuma Castle, a fine cliff dwelling, the well and castle were probably named by pioneers who stocked the natural lake with fish that perhaps poisoned those who caught and ate them. All 3 units are also well-visited bird sanctuaries, especially the well that contains arsenic. Birders have spotted the chipping sparrow and the largely orange rufous hummingbird among the hundreds of bird species that drink from this well. The fish that were once stocked in it fed on leeches. The natural lake that forms from underground springs, not nearby Beaver Creek, also attracts mud turtles.

The well is next to the creek but not filled by it. Its water flows through vents at the well’s bottom every day at about 74 degrees. No one apparently knows exactly how much water flows upward into this well because one estimate I found was 1 1/2 million gallons, another was 6 million gallons, and the top estimate was 15 million gallons. What is not disputed is the fact that this was a reliable water source in the desert even in times of drought for the people who settled near it. This valley’s annual rain and rare snowfall rarely exceeds 13 inches per year. And settle they did, in great numbers. The most important native American group to live in this area were the Sinagua people who lived here for centuries and watered crops with this water source via ditches. People have always settled here in the Verde Valley because it provided plentiful food sources and a year-round water supply from many creeks, rivers like the Verde, and this well that may have poisoned the Sinaguas over time with its arsenic and caused the survivors to leave the area.

The Mongollon Rim that crosses much of Arizona is visible to the north of Montezuma Well. These 3 attractions are about 95 miles north of Phoenix. The well and castle are very close to I-17, but Tuzigoot is further inland, giving travelers a chance to see the old town of Clarkdale on their way to it. Thanks to Brian, I now know that the classic old mining town of Jerome, AZ is visible from atop the Tuzigoot structure.

Hank

About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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