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90-MontezumaWellSept2022

Montezuma Well National Monument:

From the NPS website:

Montezuma Well is a sub-unit of Montezuma Castle. Managed by the Park Service, it is located about 15–20 minutes to the North. From Montezuma Castle National Monument, head toward I-17 and go North 1 1/2 miles to the next exit (Exit 293). Total trip between Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well is 11 miles.

The land around Montezuma Well has been home to many prehistoric groups of people since as early as 11,000 CE. The first historical groups came to the Verde Valley after Arizona became a territory in 1863. Some accounts say Spanish settlers traveled through earlier, in the 1500s, but did not settle in the area.

The first Anglo-Americans to settle at Montezuma Well were Wales and Jennie Arnold in 1870. They operated a mail station and used the prehistoric irrigation canal to water their land. The land then passed through a series of ranchers, farmers, and business people until William and Margorie Back claimed right to the land. They operated a ranch, farm, and orchard in the area. Legend claims that Abraham Lincoln Smith purchased the land around the Well in 1887 for one horse. Smith then sold the claim to the Backs in 1889 for a team of horses, thereby "doubling his profit."

The Backs also converted Montezuma Well into a tourist attraction for the first time. The family charged for tours, displayed artifacts found at nearby archeological sites, and later operated campgrounds, picnic areas, and a resort where guests could stay. Some of the biggest attractions were boat tours of the Well. The family even, unsuccessfully, attempted to stock the Well with varieties of fish so that guests could go fishing, until the fish died soon after being introduced to the water. The Backs owned and maintained the land around the Well for more than 60 years.

The Backs agreed to sell the land to the US government, and Congress approved the legislation in 1943. But funding was delayed, so Montezuma Well did not become part of the National Park Service until 1947. Montezuma Well is now a separate unit of Montezuma Castle National Monument. The National Park Service continued to use the Back house and other structures until the Mission 66 initiative of the 1950s, when the buildings were removed. But many of the original structures remain standing and are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, visitors can still see the irrigation canal, picnic areas, and historic Back ranch house at Montezuma Well. Take your time as you explore the trails at Montezuma Well and discover the tranquility of a site still considered sacred by many local tribes. The shaded forest along the trail near the swallet ruin and the outlet provides welcome relief from the unrelenting Arizona sunshine. The temperature difference at the outlet can be up to 20 degrees cooler than along the rim of the Well, making it easy to imagine the people of the Sinagua culture spending the hot summer days in this tranquil setting.


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