Let’s follow the same approach we took to the Phoenix area and look at the Sedona area through the lens of time. We begin with the ancient Indian cultures.
Montezuma Castle: South of Sedona, we can see an example of a massive cliff dwelling at Montezuma Castle National Monument. This was a very crowded spot when we visited, probably due to the easy access. With just a leisurely stroll on a paved walkway shaded by trees, we came to the view. Visitors are not permitted entrance into the castle itself, but may view it from below.
These are the dwellings of the Southern Sinagua, another ancient Indian culture whose remains remind us of those who have gone before us. The main draw for their settlement in this area was the Verde River. The river’s floodplains were perfect for farming and supported a network of some 40 villages during its height in the 1300s. It is believed that these villages running through the valley housed over 6,000 people. They began with one-room pit homes overlooking their crops, but as the society progressed, so did their building techniques. Montezuma Castle is a five story, 20 room dwelling showing the advancement of their building. It is easy to look at these types of ancient Indian dwellings and think that each dwelling or village was isolated; but that perspective is not correct. Their villages formed networks that strengthened their societies. Also, they traded with other Indian cultures around them. They were actually well connected.
Just down the road is another stop, Montezuma Well. The well, which resembles a pond is spring-fed and the surrounding walls house more dwellings. Traces of the irrigation ditches used to divert the well’s water for cultivating the land are also still evident.
Tuzigoot (pronounced Tu-zee-woot): Tuzi-what?? Tuzigoot!! Located West of Sedona, Tuzigoot National Monument preserves more of the Southern Sinagua ruins. Tuzigoot is a village that was built on the summit of a long ridge. It sits 120 feet above the Verde Valley (the same River and Valley that are home to Montezuma Castle downstream). It is thought to have been two stories high with 87 ground-floor rooms. The majority of the rooms did not have doors, instead archaeologists believe that the Indians used ladders to climb down through roof openings for entrance. The Tuzigoot visitor center displays examples of the beautiful pottery and items found at the site. One of the most interesting and telling artifacts for me was that they found macaw feathers and bones at the site, proving that the Southern Sinaguan valued bright colored beauty, and also that they had trade routes that connected them deep into Mexico.
Like so many ancient Indian cultures, the Southern Sinagua abandoned their villages in the 1400s, and archaeologists can only speculate as to what happened and why. Some believe natural disasters such as floods or droughts could have played a role, some actual Indian tribes believe that their ancestors moved village locations only for spiritual reasons in a continual search for their spiritual homes. While there are many conjectures surrounding these abandonments, I am so grateful that their ruins have been preserved and are available to the public to visit.
Jerome: Time to make another jump in history to bring us to the mining era. What is now a bit of an eclectic, quirky ghost town brought back to life on the side of a mountain overlooking the Verde Valley, Jerome began with a few mines in 1882. Prior to that, the Verde Valley was home to the Yavapai Apache Reservation, which was moved to the San Carlos Apache reservation in 1875. Following the removal of the Indians, the area was opened to settlers and the United Verde Copper Company (UVCC) operation set up shop. The mines here produced copper, silver and gold. By 1890, the population of Jerome was 250. In the 1890s Jerome suffered several fires but was continuously rebuilt, and the main copper mine also caught fire which raged underground. As the mining town grew, so did its reputation. It had a thriving Red Light District. Despite coming to America, the Chinese were known for maintaining their traditional way of life rather than assimilate. In Jerome, like many western mining towns, there was a Chinese population which was estimated at 60 in 1900. The Chinamen did railroad work, laundry and cooking to send money to their families back in China. Where there were Chinese, there was opium. With the local penchant for saloons, brothels and opium dens; it is no wonder that by 1903, Jerome was named “The Wickedest Town in the West” by a New York newspaper.
The fire still raging in the Jerome mine needed to be addressed. It was decided that the solution to putting out the fire and continuing operations was an open pit mine for which they founded neighboring Clarkdale in 1912. The smelter and other buildings were relocated to Clarkdale, and in 1914 the United Verde Extension in Clarkdale delivered over $125 million in ore and over $50 million in dividends.
In the 1930s, ground movement due to the effects of the underground mining caused a portion of the business district to slide destroying some of the buildings. The only building to survive the slide was the “Sliding Jail” which slid down to Hull Avenue. It was later physically moved to where it sits today for visitors to see. Here is a photo of the jail in the middle of Hull Avenue, and there is footage of the current location in our video at the bottom of this post.
In 1953, the UVCC closed all the mines in Jerome, and the population was recorded at only around 50 people, a far cry from its booming population of 15,000 less than 30 years prior. In 1999 celebrating its 100th year of incorporation, the town of Jerome was the smallest incorporated town in Arizona.
Jerome has seen a slow revival since its ghost town days. There are now plenty of galleries, wine-tasting rooms, businesses and restaurants to enjoy, and it is clear that the town now caters to tourists. While a funky place to visit with its steep streets and the sliding jail; it is not a best kept secret. On any given day, there are plenty of tourists about. The town displays descriptive, historical plaques on many buildings and we visited the Historical Society’s Mine Museum to learn about the history of Jerome for $2.00 each. There is also the Jerome Historical State Park to visit just outside of town, but that is a much greater fee.
Sedona: Time spent in Sedona brings us back to modern times in a hurry! A funny thing happens when you forego structured life and hit the road in earnest, it suddenly becomes impossible to track the days of the week, let alone the date. We slipped into life with no structure very easily, but every once in a while we are in circumstances that we wish we would have paid more attention to ahead of time. For example, we arrived in the Sedona area over Memorial Day weekend, big mistake! The stand still traffic kept our visit to town short, but what we saw of it was lovely. It reminded us of Moab in Utah due to its proximity to the red rock and its many adventure/outdoor shops, except Sedona is much higher end and has a lot of New Age shops added in.
What we did especially enjoy in Sedona was Little Horse Trail. The trail is just over 3.5 miles roundtrip from the parking lot to Chicken Point and back. This trail has many visible washouts, so it would be dangerous during rainstorms. It features views of Chapel of the Holy Cross and the Two Nuns. Once you reach Chicken Point, you can scramble up the rock for an incredible view, but watch out for the many trail jeeps who also travel up Chicken Point on a different route. Hiking through red rock areas is a true pleasure, so make sure to take advantage of the Sedona area (just not on a holiday weekend).
And here is a video to wrap up our time in Arizona!
Fun Facts & Tips:
- Montezuma Castle is actually a misnomer. The early American settlers to the area mistakenly believed that the ruins were from the Aztecs, hence the name.
- At Montezuma Castle & Tuzigoot the America the Beautiful pass is accepted.
- Jerome – Churchill Connection: Jerome was named for Eugene M. Jerome, one of the original investors in the UVCC. His Uncle, Leonard Jerome, was the Grandfather of Winston Churchill.
- Jerome’s town limits equal one square mile, under that square mile there are 88 miles of mine tunnel.