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Montezuma Castle

National Monument


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Cliff dwellings at Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Montezuma Castle is located in central Arizona, just south of Sedona. The dwelling was built by Sinagua farmers (Spanish for without water) early in the 12th century. When early settlers discovered the structure, they thought mistakenly that it was built by Aztecan refugees as a castle for their ruler Montezuma. Nearby, is another castle known as Castle A which was once much larger than Montezuma castle, but has since be reduced to a pile of rubble. Castle A was built against the base of the cliff.

Montezuma Castle is located in a cavern that is about a 100 feet up the face of a 150-foot cliff. The cliff was created when Beaver Creek carved through the Verde Formation. This formation, which is mostly composed of freshwater limestone, developed from eight to two million years ago. At some point during this time the Verde Valley dropped along a fault creating a large basin. The newly formed basin was then filled with sediment and dissolved minerals carried by the stream that flowed into it. This created large deposits of limestone. In addition, sedimentary brown mudstone was deposited in the basin during periods of rainy weather.

Roughly two million years ago, the Verde River overflowed the basin. The river and its tributaries started to erode channels into the limestone and caverns were eroded out of the mudstone. More extensive weathering created the alcoves that are in the cliff face we see today - including the site of Montezuma Castle.

Northeast of Montezuma Castle in another area of the monument is Montezuma Well, or just "the Well" as it is more commonly referred to. The well is a sinkhole that was created by water flowing through the layers of limestone and causing the collapse of an immense underground cavern. The well is supplied by underground springs, with a daily flow of 1.5 million gallons of warm water. Near the well, fossilized irrigation channels show where prehistoric peoples transported water from the well to the nearby farmlands. Near the rim of the well there are ruins of homes that were most likely inhabited by the farmers.

park maps subheading

The General park map handed out at the visitor center is not available.

For information about topographic maps, geologic maps, and geologic data sets, please see the geologic maps page.

photo album subheading

A geology photo album for this park can be found here.

For information on other photo collections featuring National Park geology, please see the Image Sources page.

books, videos, cds subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for a park-specific geoscience book. The park's geology may be described in regional or state geology texts.

Please visit the Geology Books and Media webpage for additional sources such as text books, theme books, CD ROMs, and technical reports.

Parks and Plates: The Geology of Our National Parks, Monuments & Seashores.
Lillie, Robert J., 2005.
W.W. Norton and Company.
ISBN 0-393-92407-6
9" x 10.75", paperback, 550 pages, full color throughout

The spectacular geology in our national parks provides the answers to many questions about the Earth. The answers can be appreciated through plate tectonics, an exciting way to understand the ongoing natural processes that sculpt our landscape. Parks and Plates is a visual and scientific voyage of discovery!

Ordering from your National Park Cooperative Associations' bookstores helps to support programs in the parks. Please visit the bookstore locator for park books and much more.

geologic research subheading

Information about the research in the park is available on the park's research webpage.

For information about permits that are required for conducting geologic research activities in National Parks, see the Permits Information page.

The NPS maintains a searchable data base of research needs that have been identified by parks.

A bibliography of geologic references is being prepared for each park through the Geologic Resources Evaluation Program (GRE). Please see the GRE website for more information and contacts.

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Park Highlights

NPS Geology and Soils Partners

NRCS logoAssociation of American State Geologists
NRCS logoGeological Society of America
NRCS logoNatural Resource Conservation Service - Soils
USGS logo U.S. Geological Survey

teacher feature subheading

Currently, we do not have a listing for any park-specific geology education programs or activities.

Information about the park's education and interpretive program is available on the park's education page.

For resources and information on teaching geology using National Park examples, see the Students & Teachers pages.
updated on 01/04/2005  I   http://nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/moca/index.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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