Copper Mining and Cave Dwellings

We had a good day and a half in the Verde Valley, south of Flagstaff. The temperatures here were much warmer than we’d been encountering further North, and the driving distances shorter.

We drove the short distance from Sedona to Tuzigoot, a hilltop settlement of the Sinagua (the name given to the local ancestral people), by a slightly roundabout route to avoid a road closure due to a parade. The very scary-looking petite lady in a “police” vest waving and shouting at the approaching traffic to turn around turned out, so Mark tells me, to have been quite pleasant once we’d turned around as instructed, parked up and Mark had ambled over to ask for advice…… She didn’t look like a policewoman (neither Cagney nor Lacey); I suspect she may have been a Citizen on Patrol…

I should mention that all of the names relating to the ancestral peoples seem to have been made up in more recent times. Sinagua from the Spanish “sin agua”, and Tuzigoot from “crooked water” in local language, albeit mangled in translation. The name was suggested when the pueblo was restored in the 1930s. I did my usual trick of taking pictures of the information boards; these are before/during photos from the 1930s.

My guess is that the vast majority of what you can see at Tuzigoot is reconstruction, but it’s a nice place to visit nevertheless and gives an idea of how things might have looked (the picture on the wall in the visitor centre was also helpful….).

Our next destination was visible from Tuzigoot; the small hillside town of Jerome. The first mining claims were staked here in the 1870s and a vibrant town soon sprang up on top of the mine with inhabitants flooding in from all over the World, ready and eager to make their fortunes (yes, I did check the surnames on every plaque I came to but I didn’t see any obviously Cornish names. My Illogan miners who disappeared in the 1860s most probably went to Australia, but then again who knows…. there’s always the slight chance of stumbling across one of my great grandad’s uncles/cousins in one of these mining towns). The boom times continued right through to the late 1920s, with the population peaking at 15,000. The town then went into decline in pretty much all senses: financially, in terms of population, and physically. In the late 1930s, underground charges caused the surface to slip, with buildings either collapsing or sliding downhill (the Jail, for example, slid 225 feet downhill). The mines finally closed in the 1950s, the population reached a low of around 50, and Jerome became to all intents and purposes a ghost town.

Things picked up again in the 1960s with artistic types attracted to the place. Nowadays it’s a busy tourist trap full of everything a day-tripper could require. If we hadn’t done all of our Christmas shopping before we came away, we’d have had it all sorted in half an hour in the gift shops of Jerome.

Our next stop was Montezuma Castle, another invented name, this time for a 5-storey Sinaguan cliff dwelling.

Driving back North to Flagstaff then a few miles East brough us to Walnut Canyon. Here, erosion of the layers in the cliff walls created numerous rock overhangs and alcoves, used by the Sinaguans to construct rooms by adding front walls and side dividing walls as required. Initially you feel as though you’re in a deserted canyon but you quickly realise that you’re really in the middle of what would have been a busy little village/town, with multiple layers of alcoves filled with dwellings. This was one if the most impressive places we’ve been to so far…..

Continuing East, we reached the Meteor Crater RV Park. We think we’ll give Meteor Crater a miss as the admission fee does seem excessive for what is, in all reality, just a very big hole in the ground…. Our plans from here see us slowly tracking South East towards Roswell.