Montezuma Well National Monument, AZ: Despite the rainy day, children go running by to get a higher view point, an older couple compare the scene to a guide book, and a small tour group snap numerous pictures. The excitement and mystery of the area and its history are palpable. The site is Montezuma Well, and it’s one part of Montezuma Castle National Monument. Over one million gallons of fresh water flows from its depths. With a constant temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit, the well contains 5 different species of aquatic life that can only be found at this location. Sinagua cliff dwellings and evidence of a farming community from 1100 AD, make this tiny corner of the national monument an incredible place to visit. We aren’t the first people to find this as a point of interest: people have been inhabiting this area for over a thousand years.
In the early 1800’s, almost one hundred years before gaining status as a national monument, there were tourists. These visitors picnicked, explored, and…collected souvenirs. While they were just as intrigued about the history of this place, they also considered them abandoned and held no qualms about taking items, building onto or over existing structures, or even painting an advertisement for their business in the dwellings.
In 1906, Montezuma Castle (and Well) along with three other sites became the first national monuments in our country thanks to Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt recognized the area for the scientific and historic value, while Native Americans recognize the preservation of an area that is still part of their memory and history passed down today.
Enjoying a visit to Montezuma Well can inspire curiosity, appreciation and imagination. But it’s ultimately up to us if Montezuma Well and similar places to continue being around for future explorers, dreamers, and scientist. We can all do our part by following regulations and signs from the land manager, especially staying on trails, leaving the area as we find it, and trashing our trash! Together we can preserve and enjoy these places for years to come!
Until next time,
Court and Nick
Leave No Trace’s Courtney and Nick Bierschbach are part of the 2015 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, Coleman, Hi-Cone, and Smartwool.