Corbitt's National Parks
             National Monument


1939: National Monument

Size: 42 acres

2007 visitors: 107,796

Stamp: Yes

Rating (1-5):

About the Site

This is a site that celebrates the Sinagua culture of Arizona's ancient inhabitants. The Sinagua were pithouse dwellers, dry farmers, who depended on rain for their crops. They lived in the region from about 1125, when they began building their large pueblos. These are found often on hilltops or in cliffs. By the early 1400s, the Sinagua abandoned the valley, and no one knows why. Perhaps there was a drought, perhaps their population had grown too large to be supported by the meager resources of the vally, perhaps conflict with other tribes drove them away. Experts feel the Sinagua were probably assimilated into the pueblos to the north.

What You're Going to See

Indian ruins. Specifically, you'll see the crumbling rock walls that formed many rooms here at Tuzigoot. It's difficult to get a sense of how the Sinagua lived; the best part of the site, its position on a minor hilltop that gives a good view of the valley, is also its downfall for imagination's sake. Present-day Cottonwood and Clarkdale are nearby, and a tailings pond from a copper mine stain the ground at the foot of the hill. Separating today's occupants from the Sinagua is a difficult trick of the mind.

There is little charm to recommend Tuzigoot. The drive through Camp Verde is more attractive than the site itself. The walls of the structure are made of crumbling rock, and are unsteady. Visitors are cautioned to tread carefully. This may not be the fault of the Sinagua; the Verde Valley didn't supply good stone for building. The Verde River runs below the site, where the Sinagua grew their crops. It's believed they supplemented their diet with hunting deer, antelope, duck, rabbit, even bear.

Tuzigoot consists of about 110 rooms, some of them second and third story structures. The first buildings went up around 1100 A.D., and it was occupied until about 1400. There are two trails around the ruins, one a quarter of a mile in length and appropriate for all visitors, one about a mile in length that is not recommended for strollers and wheelchairs.

Personal Observations

I admit this was the fifth Sinagua site I'd seen in Arizona. My trip here came on the heels of Walnut Canyon National Monument, which is a very impressive site indeed. Can this explain my antipathy to Tuzigoot? I gave it one Subbie. It was a boring, do-nothing site; even the visitors center seemed tired and run-down. I did get my passport stamped, and that thrill is just about all I can recommend for this place.

If you're looking for examples of ancient indian architecture or lifestyles, you'd be better off spending time at Walnut Canyon, Casa Grande Ruins, or Montezuma Castle. Still, it's a stamp in my passport, and that's all that counts.

Getting There

From Phoenix, go north on I-17 to exit 285. Take highway 260 northwest about 12 miles to Cottonwood. Continue 3 miles on to Clarkdale, and then 2 miles east on highway 89A.

From Flagstaff you can also take exit 285 off I-17, but why not enjoy a more scenic drive? Go south on highway 89A for 50 miles, through the red rock of Sedona, and the trip will be pleasing on the eyes.

Nearby Attractions

Grand Canyon National Park is about 90 miles to the north. To the northwest is Walnut Canyon National Monument, then Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, then Wupatki National Monument. Meteor Crater (private) is about 50 miles to the east. Montezuma Castle National Monument is about 20 miles to the southeast, and Tonto National Monument is about 100 miles southeast. Agua Fria National Monument is 50 miles due south.

Visited October 2003.

Additional Photos