Grand Circle Western National Parks 2015 travel blog

Tuzigoot National Monument













View From the Top


Looking Down at the Living Quarters

City of Jerome in the Background

Our Guide Ken in the Straw Hat

More of Our Group

Friendly Lizard



Prickly Pears



Jerome, AZ


City Hall

Main Street, Jerome

Main Street, Jerome

Thunder Mountain, Sedona



Windy Twisty Road Through Oak Canyon

Oak Canyon



Elephant Rock

Bell Rock

Courthouse Rock


































Cut Away View of Castle







Cliff Dwellings Above the Well


















Worlds Largest Kokopelli

September 29, 2015


Tuzigoot National Monument

Our first stop on today’s guided tour was Tuzigoot (Apache for “crooked water”), the remnant of a Southern Sinagua village that was built between 1000 and 1400. It crowns the summit of a long ridge rising about 120 feet above the Verde Valley. The original pueblo was two stories high in places, with 87 ground-floor rooms. There were few exterior doors. Entry was by ladders through roof openings. The village began as a small cluster of rooms inhabited by some 50 people for about 100 years. In the 1200’s the population doubled and then doubled again. (See photos)

Jerome, Arizona – The Early Years

Our next stop was the Legendary city of Jerome, Arizona, founded in 1876. Our tour guide Ken was very personable, entertaining and knowledgeable. Jerome was built on Cleopatra Hill, on top of what was the largest copper mine in Arizona, producing an astonishing three million pounds of copper per month. Wow! Prehistoric Native Americans were the first miners, seeking colored stones. The Spanish followed seeking gold but only finding copper. Anglos staked the first claims in the area in 1876, and United Verde mining operations began in 1883.

Once known as the wickedest town in the west, Jerome grew rapidly from a tent city to a prosperous town as it followed the swing of the mine’s fortunes. Miners, smelter workers, freighters, gamblers, bootleggers, saloon keepers, storekeepers, prostitutes and preachers, wives and children, all made Jerome what it was. Dependent on the ups and downs of copper prices, labor unrest, depressions and wars, Jerome’s mines finally closed in 1953. After “King Copper” left town, the population went from a peak of 15,000 in the 1920s to some 50 in the late 1950s. Within five years of the mine’s closing, Jerome became the largest ghost town in America.

Today’s Jerome

Reluctant to leave a lifetime of memories, those few hardy souls that remained promoted the town as a historic ghost town. The 60’s and 70’s were the time of counter culture, and Jerome offered a haven for artists who renovated homes and opened abandoned shops to sell their wares. Soon newcomers and Jerome old-timers were working together to bring Jerome back. Once a thriving mining camp between the late 1880’s and early 1950’s, Jerome is now a bustling tourist magnet and artistic community with a population of about 480. It includes artists, craft people, musicians, writers, hermits, business owners and historians and families. Together, they form a peaceful, colorful, and thriving little community built on a rich foundation of history and lore.

We really enjoyed our time here in Jerome. We had a delicious lunch at The Grapes café, toured the little city, did a little shopping and then it was back on the bus for our next stop, Sedona.


Our next stop was at the Airport Mesa above Sedona. From there we had a great view of the entire valley. Directly across from us was Thunder Mountain. This beautiful mountain was used as a model for Disneyland’s roller coaster ride, “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad”. To the right of Thunder Mountain was Coffeepot Rock, which resembled a coffee percolator.

After leaving Airport Mesa we drove through downtown Sedona and headed up Highway 89A into Oak Creek Canyon. This twisty windy road delivered breathtaking views along the way. When we reached the summit we stopped at a scenic overview that gave us more spectacular views of the canyon. Wow.

After returning to Sedona we traveled on Hwy 179 toward the Village of Oak Creek. Along the way we saw Castle Rock and stopped at the Bell Rock Vista Trailhead where we viewed Courthouse Rock and Bell Rock. This ended our seven hour bus tour of the area.

September 30, 2015

Montezuma Castle

This was an amazing cliff dwelling and one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. This is a 20 room, 5-story high-rise structure nestled into a towering limestone cliff and tells a story of ingenuity, the legacy of the Sinagua culture, survival and ultimately, prosperity in an unforgiving desert landscape. When first rediscovered, the ruins were thought to be Aztec in origin, hence the name bestowed on them by early explorers, but they are now known to belong to the Sinagua Indian peoples who farmed the surrounding land between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The good state of preservation of the ruins is due in part to their protected location, shielded from rain and sun, and also the relatively early designation of the site as a national monument, in 1906.

Montezuma Well

Montezuma well has all the surprise of a lake and lush vegetation in the midst of the desert. It’s a limestone sink hole 55 feet deep formed by the collapse of a large undergrown cavern long ago and is still fed by continuously flowing springs. The Southern Sinagua irrigated crops with its waters. In places, you can see traces of lime-coated irrigation ditches.

The Well is a place like no other. It shows us the power of water to affect land, life, and people. It’s an oasis in a harsh desert, home to species found nowhere else. It’s a peaceful pond, yet it’s also the setting of a nightly struggle between life and death. And it’s the ancestral home and a place of great power for Native Americans whose forebearers lived here.

Tonight is our farewell dinner and tomorrow we all depart in different directions. It has been a amazing trip with many beautiful examples of God's wonderful works. Truly an unforgettable journey.

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