Few experiences can help you feel the spirit of the Southwest like exploring one of the many ancient dwelling sites dotted around Arizona. Tuzigoot National Monument, a couple hours’ drive north of Phoenix, is a wonderfully restored geological wonder.
Once occupied by the Sinagua people between 1125 and 1400 CE, Tuzigoot is the largest and best-preserved of the many Sinagua pueblo ruins in the Verde Valley.
Tuzigoot National Monument (Yavapai: ʼHaktlakva, Western Apache: Tú Digiz) preserves a 2- to 3-story pueblo ruin on the summit of a limestone and sandstone ridge just east of Clarkdale, Arizona, 120 feet (36 m) above the Verde River floodplain.
Excavated from 1933 to 1935 by Louis Caywood and Edward Spicer of the University of Arizonahe Tuzigoot Site is an elongated complex of stone masonry rooms that were built along the spine of a natural outcrop in the Verde Valley. Central rooms stand higher than the others and they appear to have served public functions. The pueblo has 110 rooms; very few have doors. Instead, they feature trapdoor type openings in the roofs, and use ladders to enter each room.
Although the climate at the monument is arid, with less than 12 inches of rainfall annually, several streams thread their way from upland headwaters to the Verde Valley below.
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Tuzigoot is Apache for “crooked water,” a reference to nearby Tavasci Marsh, with it’s slow-moving water, that provides habitat for the great diversity of plant and animal life found within and adjacent to the monument.
The monument grounds contain numerous species of plants, such as mesquite, catclaw, and saltbush, which have adapted to life in an arid environment, but, due to the micro-habitats provided by the riparian corridors, also hosts populations of moisture-loving plants. The tall, large-leaved mesic species of trees, such as sycamore and cottonwood, typically found only in the riparian corridors, stand in stark contrast to the desert plants found on the neighboring lands.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated Tuzigoot Ruins as a U.S. National Monument on July 25, 1939. Search Tuzigoot at nps.gov for visiting hours and admission fees.
Tuzigoot National Monument is easy to access in any vehicle (including RVs) by exiting Interstate 17 at the Hwy 260/Cottonwood exit and driving west about 20 miles.
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