800 Years Later
On December 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt celebrated the passage of the Antiquities Act by declaring four sites of historic and cultural significance as our nation's first National Monuments. Among these was Montezuma Castle, which the President identified as a place "of the greatest ethnological value and scientific interest." Although very few original artifacts remained in the structure due to intensive looting of the site, Roosevelt's decision assured the continued protection of one of the best preserved prehistoric cliff dwellings in North America.
Montezuma Castle National Monument quickly became a destination for America's first car-bound tourists. In 1933, "Castle A", a 45-50 room, pueblo ruin was excavated, uncovering a wealth of artifacts and greatly enhanced our understanding of the Sinagua people who inhabited this riparian "oasis" along Beaver Creek for over 400 years.
Early visitors to the monument were allowed access to the structure by climbing a series of ladders up the side of the limestone cliffs. However, due to extensive damage to this valuable cultural landmark, public access of the ruins was discontinued in 1951.
Now, approximately 350,000 people a year gaze through the the windows of the past during a visit to Montezuma Castle. Even 600 years after their departure, the legacy of the Sinagua people continues to inspire the imaginations of this and future generations.
Although Montezuma Castle is small in size, many species of animals live here. Birds, mammals, lizards, and insects are seen most frequently, though seasons and weather play a large role in determining what animals are active.
Montezuma Castle National Monument supports a highly diverse flora. In spite of the small acreages of the Castle and Well units, together they support 379 species of plants. This is an impressive amount for a semiarid upland area with less than 12 inches of precipitation annually. These plants not only support an incredible natural ecosystem, but tell the story of a millennium of continued use by local cultures. We call that use ethnobotany; walk our trails and learn how the desert flora provides for our human needs.