Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot Ruins, Spring 2012

Tuzigoot. That’s right. I said it – Tuzigoot. It’s not a curse, it doesn’t mean anything about aliens, it’s a word from a long lost past. Tuzigoot is the Apache word for “crooked water”. But, if you’re considering going to Tuzigoot, there’s something even more interesting than long-lost words – it’s the fact that the entirety of the ruin was partially hidden when it was excavated in the 1930’s. As I mentioned last week, Tuzigoot is the ruins of a small city, and now is the second National Monument located in the Verde Valley (the first being Montezuma’s Castle). Like Montezuma’s Castle, Tuzigoot was inhabited by the Sinagua people in the 1000’s. Again, like Montezuma’s Castle, the site was mysteriously abandoned in the 1400’s by those same Sinagua people.

Unlike Montezuma’s Castle, however, Tuzigoot was constructed atop a reasonably sized hill with commanding views of the Verde Valley. To me, this is where things get interesting – whereas Montezuma’s Castle was (and is) hidden away from inquisitive eyes for hundreds of years in niches in a slot canyon, the ruins of Tuzigoot were in plain view for hundreds of years. That’s right: the ruins of Tuzigoot were in plain view for hundreds of years – and yet hidden. Now, I know there’s bound to be skeptical readers that are reading this blog and saying, “Yeah right – I know that someone had to have seen those ruins”.


Riddle me this though,  readers: would you have known that ancient ruins lurked here in 1934 had you been walking through the Verde Valley and examining the hill that Tuzigoot stands on at a distance? Would you have? Would you have known that based on seeing something that looked exactly like this: http://www.nps.gov/tuzi/images/20090728174213.jpg ? Personally, I rather doubt it. And, this goes to my larger point that I talked about a week ago: use your powers of observation – there’s always something magical and mysterious waiting to be discovered out in the world. (http://lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/2012/5/1/chapel-of-the-holy-dove-kendrick-park-arizona.html) The archeologists and people that worked on the Tuzigoot excavation certainly thought that there were many interesting things to be discovered too!

 Tuzigoot Ruins, Spring 2012

Directions: The National Park Service advises potential visitors not to Mapquest or use Google to find Tuzigoot (aha, here is the evidence of an alien conspiracy, as it is clearly unplottable!) as such services supposedly give you bad directions. Since I’m bad at following directions, I used Google Maps and…..had no problems. Nevertheless, the NPS directions are quite good, so for your convenience, here they are:

“Tuzigoot National Monument is 52 miles south of Flagstaff, Arizona via U.S. Alternate Highway 89A, or 90 miles north of Phoenix. Travel Interstate Highway 17, take Exit 287 and travel west on Highway 260 to Cottonwood. You will continue through Cottonwood on Hwy 89A and go toward Clarkdale. At the first traffic light after turning on to 89A, signs will direct you to turn left to stay on 89A. Go straight through this intersection. This will put you on HISTORIC 89A (designated on the map above as HWY 260) and take you through “Old Town Cottonwood”. As you can tell from the map, Main Street (Historic 89A) does a lot of twisting around. Once you leave Cottonwood you are almost there. There will be a sign telling you where to turn to get to Tuzigoot. You take Tuzigoot Road and follow it to the end…that is where Tuzigoot National Monument is.”

Tips: As Tuzigoot was a small city for a number of years, it also contained the remains of a number of individuals that died during that period of time. According to the National Park Service, the Sinagua people buried the remains of dead children under their living space, in order that they could be with their family. As such, when you are walking around the site, remember to treat it with respect as it is sacred to the decedents of the original inhabitants. It’s also interesting to note that the entrances to most of the living spaces at Tuzigoot were located on the ceilings, rather than the sides, which allowed the inhabitants to maximize the amount of space within the city. The Visitor Center at Tuzigoot also has some great information regarding other former sites in the Verde Valley which used to be within the line-of-sight of the city, and good information about the excavation of Tuzigoot and the Sinagua people.

More Information: http://www.exploring-arizona.com/exploring-arizona-a-fresh-look/parks/tuzigoot-national-monument/,http://www.nps.gov/tuzi/index.htm, http://www.nps.gov/history/archeology/sites/antiquities/profileTuzigoot.htm