Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument much like its nearby cousin Montezuma Castle National Monument is a popular Sedona area attraction. I have elected to cover this location due to my interest in Native American culture, ruins, and artifacts. Tuzigoot National Monument is 65 miles south of Flagstaff, via U.S. Alternate Highway 89, a roadway through scenic Oak Creek Canyon. It is 90 miles north of Phoenix. Take exit 287 and travel west on Highway 260 approximately 14 miles.

There is a small entrance fee of $5.00 per person. Children under 16 years of age are free.

There is a paved loop trail with some uphill walking. Access should be relatively easy for people of all ages. Older visitors may find the uphill sections a little strenuous.  Also note that if you wish to reach the roof top a small set of stairs must be climbed.

A few things worth noting: At Tuzigoot you are able to get up close and personal with the ruins, walking directly through them giving you the ability to see and feel what the original inhabitants did. The museum is set up nicely, and has a number of artifacts that were discovered during the excavation. Their interpretive and historical information is laid out nicely and gives a lot of excellent information about the area, the ruins, and the excavation process.


NPS employee doing restoration work on the Tuzigoot pueblo.

NPS employee doing restoration work on the Tuzigoot pueblo.


The Tuzigoot pueblo dates back to around 1100 AD, a time when the Sinagua inhabited the Verde Valley. The same people are responsible for the ruins at nearby Montezuma Well, Montezuma Castle, the cliff dwellings in the Sedona area,  the Walnut Canyon ruins near Flagstaff, as well as the petroglyphs at the V_V Ranch site. The pueblo was two-story, and contained upward of 97 rooms with an estimated 250 people once living here. It is located on top of a summit which overlooks the Verde River.

It is believed the Sinagua practiced a form of farming on the valley floor below called flood-water farming.

Gary Paul Nabhan, describes flood-water farming in his report, “The ecology of floodwater farming in arid southwestern North America” as follows:  “Floodwater farming is the management of sporadic flashfloods for crop production. It is an ancient technique in the arid southwestern region of North America that is currently being reevaluated and adapted. Floodwater-based agro-ecosystems function via (1) hydrostatic manipulations of the physical environment, and (2) synecological manipulations of the plant community. Agronomically productive hydrostatic conditions have been developed by geomorphological alterations of the floodplain, including canals, terraces, grids, spreaders, and weirs. These environmental modifications serve to (1) concentrate the runoff from a larger watershed into a strategically located field, and (2) break the erosive force of the incoming water. Traditional floodwater farming in arid America has depended upon ephemeral, drought-avoiding and heat-tolerant genotypes. In addition, native Americans manipulate the wild and weedy flora of floodwater fields by discouraging or protecting and harvesting selected species. As part of traditional subsistence, floodwater farming has undergone a demise in native communities. Techniques are, however, being modified for (1) forage production, and (2) supplemental human food production. As a high risk system, floodwater agriculture is not now competitive with conventional irrigation agriculture in arid lands, but may become so as groundwater pumping costs continue to affect crop production economics.”


Room inside of Tugizoot pueblo

Room inside of Tugizoot pueblo


Tuzigoot was excavated in 1933-1934 by archaeologists Louis R. Caywood and Edward H. Spicer. Caywood and Spicer’s report to the U.S. Department of the Interior, titled “Tuzigoot; The Excavation and Repair of a Ruin on the Verde River near Clarkdale, Arizona” (July, 1935), contains the following details:

  • During excavation, 429 sets of human remains were discovered. In most cases, these were found buried in the hillside with a few personal possessions, their heads covered with rush matting, and their bodies wrapped in cotton cloth. Many of these remains were reburied at the site after excavation was completed.
  • Dedrochronolgy–the technique of tree ring dating–had just been developed by A. E. Douglass of the University of Arizona, and Caywood and Spicer attempted to apply this new method to date Tuzigoot’s roof timbers. Unfortunately, they met with limited success. Much of the site had been burned near the time of abandonment, destroying many of its wooden roof beams. Also, most of the wood used in construction was sycamore and juniper, neither of which lend themselves to tree ring dating. In the end, only two dates were obtained, both from pinion logs from the same roof, which dated construction of that particular section to about 1200 AD. But as the authors lamented: “The two rooms which this single roof covered are obviously neither the earliest nor the latest constructed rooms in the pueblo. They were built at some intermediate period in the history of the village.”
  • Entrances to rooms were almost exclusively by means of hatchways through the roofs. Only five side entrances were found, and two of these had been completely sealed up sometime during the period of occupation of the pueblo.
  • The interior walls were all covered by a red-colored mud plaster an inch or more in thickness. However: “As a rule the plaster coats were blackened with smoke, so that the interiors of rooms must have presented a very dark aspect indeed.”

The entire report can be viewed on the National Park Service website.

Franklin D. Roosevelt designated Tuzigoot Ruins as a U.S. National Monument on July 25, 1939. The Tuzigoot National Monument Archeological District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

It is also important to note that the Tuzigoot pueblo was part of a community of pueblos, two additional pueblos once stood with a few miles. Those two pueblos being Hatalacva and Bridgeport. Little information is available about these pueblos, they are rarely if ever made reference to. Both Hatalacva and Bridgeport are nothing but rubble today, but it is still possible to see the outlines of the walls which once stood. It is estimated that the Halalacva pueblo had around 60 rooms, while the Bridgeport pueblo was double the size of Tuzigoot with between 200-300 rooms.


About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.