Tuzigoot Vacation Explores Arizona's Native American Past
No trip to the great American West is quite complete without exploring the lives and culture of the Indian people who claimed this land as their own long before European settlers came on the scene.
Tuzigoot National Monument is one of several interesting locales in the north-central Arizona corridor along interstate highway 17 (I-17) south of Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. The ruins belong to the Sinagua Indian culture, who occupied areas of the Verde River Valley, including the well-known Montezuma Castle, Montezuma's Well and the V bar V Petroglyph site, in nearby Camp Verde Arizona. Tuzigoot stands majestically on a hilltop overlooking the Verde River Valley, and unlike the cliff-dwellings at Montezuma Castle, are not built into the side of a cliff face, but are freestanding structures that are a lot like apartment buildings.
A short, steep trail leads through the ruins, with interpretive signs along the path. On the day we went, the welcome center was closed for rennovations and we had the entire place almost to ourselves.
Tuzigoot is a short drive from Jerome, Arizona and combines well with a visit there. Stop in nearby Cottonwood for a pleasant lunch or stay and camp at the nearby state park with fishing, boating, RV camp sites, and tent sites right in Cottonwood along the Verde River. The unfortunate, though colorful name of the park is Dead Horse Ranch State Park.
A visit to Verde Valley is a fabulous opportunity to experience some of the romance of the American West in microcosm, with access to Indian ruins, ghost towns, and the natural beauty and grandeur of the Verde River Valley all within about 30 miles of each other.
The Sinagua people lived between 600 and 1400 AD and are considered by the anthropologists at the University of Northern Arizona to be the ancestors of the present-day Hopi. Not much is really known about these people, beyond the findings in the cliff dwellings where they lived. A visit to the Tuzigoot site offers an interesting counterpoint to the more extensive ruins called Montezuma's castle, and the two sites are only about 40 minutes from each other, and the scenery along state highway 89a is pleasant and easy to maneuver with an RV. The two sets of ruins were inhabited by the same people, and yet there are distinct variations in building styles. The Sinagua are considered part of the Anasazi group of Indians who inhabited many regions of the Southwestern States in parts of southern Utah and Colorado, as well as Northern New Mexico and Arizona. However, the Sinagua lived in a geographical area limited to North Central Arizona, where they adapted their lifestyle to the land they inhabited. It is believed that the Sinagua intermarried with other tribes (the Hohokam, for example), and that they grew crops that were traded up from the native peoples of Central America.
Verde Valley is a great place to take a family with older children, especially children in the middle to late elementary years. Children at this age are usually fascinated by the ancient ruins of the Sinagua Indians. And their active imaginations fuel some interesting questions about life in a Sinaguan village. I loved imagining how the lived, what their society was like, and imagined children scurrying about at play and mothers washing at the river. I wondered just how safe their society was. Was it fraught with danger? Why was their city so well fortified? And how well did the communities that dotted the Verde Valley communicate with each other. From its vantage point high above the river, it is easy to image the Sinagua people guarding the mountain passes that led into the western-most end of the Verde River valley.
Where is Verde Valley?
Verde Valley lies about 80 miles north of Phoenix along the I-17 interstate freeway, and is on the way to Flagstaff, the gateway to the Grand Canyon. If you do not live in Arizona, and want to maximize your Grand Canyon vacation adventure without straying too far from your vacation destination, a stop for a few days in the Verde Valley is a great way to extend your vacation without spending too much on additional travel costs.
Tuzigoot National Monument and Nearby Points of Interest
Tuzigoot and Related Points of Interest
Additional Tuzigoot Links
- Tuzigoot National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) official site
Find park hours, location, and information about the park's visitor center, museum, and gift shop. Information also for kids and teachers.
- Critical Eye Photography : Tuzigoot National Monument
Some beautifully crafted photos of Tuzigoot monument.
Where to find Lodging
For tent and RV campers, your best bet is at Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, Arizona. This state park is so close to the ruins that you can actually see the park and the riparian habitat that surrounds the river from Tuzigoot. Dead Horse Ranch State Park, despite its ominous sounding name is an extremely popular camping spot. It has a well-stocked fishing lake, swimming, and RV campsite hookups with electricity. If you are planning to bring your RV, be sure to schedule your spot early, especially if you plan to visit during the park's busy summer season. Several primitive campgrounds are in nearby Camp Verde, and over 10 commercial RV parks can be found in and around Camp Verde.
For those who want to stay in a hotel, the nearest big towns are Camp Verde, about 20 miles to the east, and right on I-17, or Prescott, about 40 miles south. Prescott isn't much further than Camp Verde, but will take much longer to get there, since you will have to travel through a scenic by-way to get there. However, Prescott is its own attraction and is a much larger city than Camp Verde. I have visited and stayed in both cities and you will not be disappointed, whichever you choose. For some upscale hotel and resort options, Sedona is only a 45-minute drive from the Verde Valley. It is famed for its upscale offerings, including fine dining, many art galleries, and spectacular red rock scenery.
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Tuzigoot National Monument Musical Tour
VJG from Texas on October 24, 2014:
Reading your article brought back pleasant memories. The Sedona area was our first trip with our son - he was 21 months old. We visited the three points on your map. Each site was incredible. Jerome was a blast. Our next trip was to Albuquerque....Sedona spoiled us.
Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on October 09, 2011:
Thanks Dim, it really is a fabulous place. I am always amazed at the level of civilization that existed thousands of years ago. This idea that people must have been more primitive in the past gets wiped out when you start thinking about how they sited their structures for safety and defensibility. It is a great place and so near to some of the other places in Arizona and Verde Valley isn't too far from the Grand Canyon.
I hope you get to make it there some day.
Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on October 09, 2011:
What a wonderful hub about a place l would so, so love to visit.
The maps were great.
Thank you for such interesting information.
yyn1221 from China on August 01, 2010:
Very enjoyable read, one of the few places in Arizona that I haven't been. Nice to know I have a new place to explore.
Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on July 22, 2010:
Thanks Simone, I think that new map capsule is cool and so useful for travel writing. I'll be using it more and adding it to several existing hubs. Way to go HP!
gramarye from Adelaide - Australia on July 22, 2010:
Saw this advertised on facebook (hubpages). I didn't realize we have map capsules. Great use!
Ricardo Nunes from Portugal on July 22, 2010:
That`s right, the map capsule it`s a great upgrade and fits very well in this kind of hubs.
Thank you Simone and the rest of the team for the new hub features ;)
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on July 22, 2010:
This is so cool. I love the map capsule you added. It goes really well with the maps you already had- allowing us to dig a little deeper on our own. Great thinking!
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on July 31, 2009:
When I was a child in the '50s, we visited Montezuma's Castle, Jerome and Tuzigoot. I think we were in our way to Carlsbad Caverns. I don't know how Mom found out about all the places we went back then, but she made sure we didn't miss much on our tours of the American West. Thanks for bringing those places to mind again.
Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on July 31, 2009:
Patty I'm glad you stopped by. I love sharing my photos in hubs with relevant material.
Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on July 30, 2009:
Great photos and maps and I enjoyed reading about this monument. Glad you like HP!
Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on July 27, 2009:
Thanks Chris! AZ is a great place to live and visit. I've just begun exploring the interesting places out here myself. Thank you for your encouragement. We moved 3 times in 10 months and it has been a crazy year. The HP team makes writing and publishing easy and painless, though. I love it here!
Chris1|Chris2 from Los Angeles on July 27, 2009:
I've got to get out to AZ sometime soon. I live in CA so it's not too far away. I'll definitely try to check out this place when the time comes.
And kudos, btw, for being so close to 100 hubs! I just joined HubPages, and I can't imagine how much time you must have put in to create so many popular hubs! It's awesome!
Carolyn Augustine (author) from Iowa on July 26, 2009:
Hi everyone! I hope you get a chance to visit that way. Verde Valley is very pretty, especially in early spring (April). Check out Montezuma Castle, Montezuma's Well, and the V-V Petroglyph sites too. Hubs coming forthwith. ;)
Dohn, thank you for your encouraging words. It seems like i've taken forever to get to the century mark, but slow and steady wins the race, as they say. I'll see you on the other side.
dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on July 26, 2009:
Beautiful pictures, wannabwestern. You have some wonderful advice for the would-be traveler. I've been to Arizona's Grand Canyon three times and each time was a unique experience. Seeing your pics bring me back to an almost state of homesickness. Thank you for sharing this with me! You just gave me a great idea for another hub! (By the way, I see that you're on the precipice of the elusive mark of 100 hubs). Good Luck!
shawna.wilson from Arizona on July 26, 2009:
I live in Arizona and have never been to Tuzigoot. Maybe we'll plan a trip when the kids are a little older. Thanks!
wesleycox from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012 on July 26, 2009:
I do believe that I shall visit this place one day. Thank you for the tip. I love road trips
Jerilee Wei from United States on July 26, 2009:
Very enjoyable read, one of the few places in Arizona that I haven't been. Nice to know I have a new place to explore.