For thousands of years, Verde Valley has been a human melting pot. Hunters and gatherers came first, searching for wild game and grasses. Traders followed, digging salt and minerals, and then settlers farming the fertile bottomlands.
Perched atop a ridge high above the Verde River two miles east of Clarkdale is Tuzigoot National Monument, one of the largest pueblos built by the Sinagua. Tuzigoot (pronounced ‘Two-z-goot’) is an Apache word meaning “crooked water.” The term applies to the nearby Peck’s Lake, which is a runoff from the Verde River.
The pueblo grew slowly over the centuries. Like most modern cities, there appeared to be no master plan—it just sprawled across the hilltop, wherever there was space.
At its peak in the late 1300s, about 225 people lived within the pueblo, which contained about 86 rooms on the ground floor and 15 or so rooms on a second story. The earliest buildings in the pueblo were constructed more than 1,000 years ago. The monument has more than 22,000 artifacts, with many of them on display in its excellent museum.
The Sinagua built their masonry homes on this ridge about the year 1000 and established a thriving agricultural community. The Sinagua appear to have abandoned the site around 1425. Whether it was because of drought, disease, overpopulation, depletion of resources, or some combination of those factors, no one really knows.
Most rooms in the pueblo sheltered single families and were used mainly for sleeping and eating. Some rooms had stone or clay-lined fireplaces for cooking and warmth, but outside fire pits were also used. Trough-style stone metates and two-handed manos for grinding corn were found in ruins.
Sinagua builders used soft, porous limestone for the walls which required constant repair.
By the time archaeologists arrived in the 1930s, the walls at the site had long since crumbled, leaving only low outlines of the pueblo’s rooms. Nearly all the walls at Tuzigoot today were reconstructed using original stones from the site.
Two trails are found at Tuzigoot—Ruins Loop and Tavasci Marsh Overlook.
The Ruins Loop trail is paved and about 1/3 mile in length. It winds up and through the remains of the pueblo. A sign asks visitors to stay off the walls and on the walkway, to help preserve the remnants of this earlier civilization. A staircase leads through an upper room of the pueblo to the rooftop, where visitors can enjoy an expansive, 360-degree view. Mingus Mountain, the old mining town of Jerome perched halfway up its slopes, stands to the southwest.
The Tavasci Marsh Overlook trail takes the visitor to an overview of Tavaschi Marsh, one of the few freshwater marshes in Arizona.
The onsite museum is an archaeological find in itself. The museum holds a remarkable collection of artifacts, as well as a model of what archaeologists believe the intact pueblo looked like.
An intriguing exhibit is the full-size re-creation of a typical pueblo room, complete with animal skins, blankets, loom, fire pit, pottery, and a few household items. A ladder leads to an opening in the roof.
Artifacts include an assortment of obsidian arrowheads, as well as spear points, knives, axes, and hoes. The Sinagua also fashioned a number of items from bone, including hair ornaments, whistles, and awls for basket weaving and punching holes in leather.
Other tools include spindle sticks and whorls for spinning cotton. Weavers made blankets, skirts, sandals, matting, nets, bags, and ropes from locally grown cotton, and they colored those items with vegetable and mineral dyes.
Also on display are a number of pots and bowls. Some are plain, others have intricate geometric designs.
Note: Renovation are complete and the Museum and Visitor Center are open.
Tuzigoot National Monument
Operating Hours: Open year-round, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., extended hours in summer
Admission: Adults $5.00 (valid for seven days), children (under 16) free; passes are available at a discounted rate of $8.00 for both Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle national monuments (If you are planning on visiting both parks, ask for this discounted pass when you purchase your entrance fee at either park)
Climate: Summers in the Verde Valley are generally hot and dry, although, it often cools down considerably at night; winters can be snowy at times with temperatures ranging between 14-45 degrees
Location: From Cottonwood on State Route 260, drive through Old Town Cottonwood toward Clarkdale; turn right onto Tuzigoot Road and follow to end
Camping: NO camping facilities
Address: P.O. Box 219, Camp Verde, Arizona 86322
Contact: (928) 634-5564
Did You Know?
At Tuzigoot National Monument scarlet macaws were found buried in stone lined pits under the floors. Extensive trade routes into modern-day Mexico brought these birds north to the Sinagua of Central Arizona.
The heritage of the past is the key that unlocks the promise of the future.
—Inscription on a statue at the National Archives Building