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Montezuma Castle was the third American national monument built on the 8th. December 1906 (at the same time as the Petrified Forest – now a national park) was proclaimed by President Theodore Roosevelt.

When it was built, between 1100 and 1300, the castle of Montezuma was a 5-storey limestone rock with 20 rooms overlooking the stream. Another neighboring building, now dilapidated, also had 5 floors and about 45 rooms.

Imagine living in this rocky community in Arizona, growing crops on fertile waterfront land, weaving textiles and baskets, making pottery and tools, hunting game and drying skins.

In this post we explore the Montezuma Castle National Monument and the Montezuma Well in Arizona.

Montezuma Castle is located 25 miles from Sedona and 55 miles from Flagstaff, making it easily accessible from any town.

Montezuma Castle

Emperor Montezuma II lived in the 1500s and did not visit the castle of Montezuma in Arizona. How did the name Montezuma Castle come to be?

The first settlers believed that the building was of Aztec origin, which is why they called it the Castle of Montezuma.

Visitors were once able to climb wooden ladders and view more than 40 rooms of the steep houses. Because of the damage to the building, public access was interrupted in the 1950s.

There is a diorama of the castle of Montezuma that shows how life in Montezuma could have been for Sinagua.

Montezuma Castle is one of the best preserved Indian ruins in North America. The structure is built in a limestone cliff overlooking Beaver Creek.

The house of the castle of Montezuma was built between 1100 and 1200 AD. With five levels of rooms, there were stairs to reach each level. In Sinagua a wooden beam construction was used for the roof construction.

Although Montezuma is a large structure, it is not the largest of the old pueblos in northern Arizona, such as the Wupatki Pueblo with more than 100 rooms.

Who lived in the castle of Montezuma?

The Sinaguan population lived in the area around central and northern Arizona from about 600 AD. Chr. until 1450, when they left the area.

Their descendants are Hopi, and they believe that Sinagua has left the region for spiritual reasons.

The name Sinagua was invented by the archaeologist Harold S. in 1939. Colton, founder of the Museum of North Arizona, of the Spanish words sin, meaning without, and agua, meaning water.

This is the name originally given by Spanish explorers to the peaks of San Francisco near Flagstaff, Sierra Sin Agua.

Sinagua inhabited the area when the nearby Zakat crater was discovered between 1050 and 1150 A.D. and the ashes in the air released miles away.

The Honanki ruins are another ancient habitat at Sinagua Rock, near Sedona, Arizona.

The inhabitants of Sinagua grew beans, corn and pumpkins. And they created irrigation systems with channels to direct the water flow to the crops.

You can still see some irrigation channels in the Montezuma well.

They also hunted wild animals such as antelopes, bears, deer, ducks, muskrats, rabbits and turtles.

Plants were used to make food and medicine, and as building material for baskets, textiles and roofs.

Among the plants used in Sinagua are cactus, yucca, rose, buckwheat, cranberries, nuts and sunflower seeds.

Medicinal plants included serpentine broom, creosote, glasswort with four wings, mesquite and stamens gin.

There is evidence that salt was used for trade in the region. The inhabitants of the castle of Montezuma had access to the salt pans of the Verdi valley.

Among the objects found in the Verdi Valley and from other regions are ornamental earthenware from various regions and macaws from Mexico. I wonder how often they came from other regions and Sinagua started trading with others?

To amuse himself, Sinagua played handball. There are many handball courts in Arizona, mainly in the southern region, but some are located in the central and northern regions, such as near the Wupatki National Monument.

Montezuma pit

Who expects to see a lake in the desert?

Montezuma Well is an oasis created by a well and fed by spring water in the high desert of Arizona.

More than one million litres of water a day flow into the source of Montezuma.

This has provided Sinagua with a water supply and irrigation for agriculture. The people of Sinagua dug irrigation channels to water their fields.

You can see some of the irrigation channels near the Montezuma fountain. Also take a look along the upper ridge around the lake to see the stone houses.

Follow the track down to the water and watch the birds. It is also much cooler at the water’s edge, so it is a good place to enjoy the shade and relax.

Along the way you will see some old rooms built near the lake. Unfortunately the first visitors of the ruins decided to desecrate the site with graffiti.

Next to the irrigation channel stands a huge maple tree. Cut your initials or something else on the tree! Take a picture, but leave it like this.

The Montezuma Well Hotel is located 10 miles from Montezuma Castle and admission is free.

Opening hours and tickets


  • The entrance fee is $10 and is valid for 7 days at Montezuma Castle and the Tuzigut National Monument.
  • Children under the age of 16 – FREE admission
  • Montezuma’s Well – Free entrance for everyone.


Daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed at Christmas and New Year and closed at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day).

Teachers and their pupils are exempt from school fees, which also applies to the Tuzigut National Monument. Please submit your request at least two weeks before your visit.

Enjoy exploring the historic sites of Arizona.

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