They say America doesn’t have real castles like Europe does. They might be right when it comes to enormous Renaissance or Baroque palaces. Bur Arizona has its own “royal residence” and invites you to visit its famous Montezuma Castle.
Last updated: July 22, 2022
How to Visit Montezuma Castle National Monument
During our recent visit to Sedona, Arizona, we decided to stay in the nearby area to avoid spending a fortune on a hotel room in the city. Camp Verde – a small town about 30 miles away – allured us with its significantly cheaper accommodations.
Next morning before heading back to Sedona, we went to see what the place had to offer. The first thing on our itinerary was a visit to Montezuma Castle National Monument. We didn’t spend a lot of time here, but it was enough to acknowledge the historical value of the place.
A trip to Montezuma Castle, and ancient “palace”, can’t be compared to any other visits to royal residences you’ve even seen before. The place looks like a small park with cliff dwellings on the bank of Beaver Creek.
Montezuma Castle National Monument: History in a Nutshell
Centuries ago, Montezuma Castle was a home to a large group of Sinagua Indians. The Sinagua people found the area around Beaver Creek suitable for growing corn, squash, and beans. It was a perfect place for these hunter-gatherers and farmers. Moreover, the fortified location shielded the Sinagua them from the elements. Soon enough it became their primary dwelling.
No one knows exactly what happened later. Some suggest that drought, disease, and exhaustion of farmlands forced the Sinagua to look for another home. But by 1425 A.D., the tribe left Montezuma Castle – a unique castle in north-central Arizona.
Visit Montezuma Castle – an Unusual Castle near Camp Verde in Arizona
A visit to Montezuma Castle is educational, to say the least. Historical facts seem to penetrate the air here. Let’s start with the cliff structure.
Montezuma Castle is a five-story, 20-room ancient dwelling. It’s set about 90 feet up a limestone cliff near Camp Verde in Arizona. The walls of Montezuma Castle are made from limestone and mud mortar, about two feet thick at the bottom and narrow to only one foot at the top. The ceilings of the “castle” is roughly five feet above the ground.
Each group that lived in Montezuma Castle occupied one separate room, which was about 140 square feet. Peep holes and doorways let light get in in the morning and early afternoon. The rooms of Montezuma Castle were dark in the late afternoon and evening.
The Sinagua people also used the caste as a place to hold their community meetings. On top of that, Montezuma Castle served as a storeroom for crops and seeds. Overall, more than 6,000 Native American traveled through the long corridors of the castle while heading southwest.
Where did the Name “Montezuma” Come from?
Montezuma Castle received its name by mistake. Initially, historians believed that the unique structure had been built in early 15th century. Thus, they named it after Montezuma, the ruler of the Aztec empire from 1502 to 1520.
Thorough investigation of the site started only in the late 1800s and revealed the signs of the Sinagua people.
In 1906, Theodor Roosevelt declared Montezuma Castle a national monument. Even though the castle has undergone a few reconstructions, over 90 percent of it is original.
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