Filed under: Historic Places & Landmarks, Nature & Wildlife, Scenic Byways/Historic Routes, State & National Parks
Tuzigoot National Monument and Jerome, AZ…
We recently spent a week and a half near Cottonwood, AZ (which is located between Sedona and Prescott). Because of it’s elevation of 3300 feet, the nights were chilly, some of them getting below freezing enough that we would have to unhook our water overnight. Despite it being cooler than I had anticipated, we still enjoyed our visit very much, and the days warmed enough that, during a few of them, the kids wore out the rope swing hanging temptingly out over the creek that bordered the park, and the kids spent many afternoons at the basketball court and playground. We had such a fun time meeting a few other fulltime traveling families, and we had the opportunity to spend a morning with my aunt and uncle that live in Prescott. We also took a few days to check out the surrounding area; and found that Cottonwood boasts quite a lot to do within a short distance!
One of the first places in the Verde Valley that we went to was Tuzigoot National Monument. Tuzigoot is a 110 room pueblo that was built by native peoples approximately 1000 years ago. The ruins are just that, ruins. The once sprawling pueblo, covering nearly the entire small hill, was reduced to a pile of stones over time, practically unperceptable to the untrained eye (that would be me), The pueblo’s excavation was a New Deal project in the 30s, providing jobs to local out of work copper miners. What those out of work copper miners uncovered and rebuilt is now a National Park that covers 42 acres.
There are 2 different and distinct parts of the park. One is the ruins, the other a marsh.
The ruins are accessible by a 1/3 mile paved loop that climbs the hill and runs around the upper part of the pueblo. There are a few parts of the pueblo that are open to the publict to explore. The tower, or uppermost room, which makes one think of an outlook tower, can be visited by climbing a set of stairs to the uppermost platform. The view is one of a lovely valley, and it also allows you to see into the rooms that you cannot see into from the lower path. At the top, there is a ranger available to answer any questions, and he even gave the kids bookmarks and postcards! Back on the path, and farther along it, are 2 rooms that are open to the public.
In one of these rooms were mano and metates that the kids could practice grinding with (and made for some great souvenir pictures). Of course, along the path were various signs explaining life back when the Sinagua peoples lived here, and details about the pueblo and surrounding area.
The other part of the park is a marsh that is accessed by a 1/4 mile path. The Tavasci Marsh remains as only a small part of a wetland that once existed in the area. The park now makes this wetland habitat available for enjoyment via a lovely overlook platform. The marsh is teeming with cattails and is a great stop for bird watchers.
Of course our kids completed the Jr. Ranger program here :). This is one of the many parks that encourage people of all ages to participate in learning more about the park (as well as taking home a free souvenir by way of a J.R. badge) via the Jr. Ranger program.
Tuzigoot was a great place to spend the morning, and then afterwards, we drove just a few miles up the road to the little touristy town of Jerome. Set on a steep hillside, the town was once a mining town, belonging to the copper mine that graces the view from many of the resident’s windows. Established in 1883, the town quickly gained notoriety as the ‘wickedest town in the west’. By 1929, Jerome had over 15,000 residents, and Arizona was the largest copper producer in the U.S. Fast forward to 1953; the copper mines closed, and Jerome’s population had sunk to around 50 people!
Jerome has come a long way since the 1950s! Today Jerome has grown into a tourist community drawing visitors from all over with it’s quirky artsy shops and numerous quaint eateries with open air decks for dining. A fun little drive, be forwarned that Jerome is anything but RV friendly! (personally, I wouldn’t take anything bigger than a van through it’s tiny, winding streets…). Jerome is a quiet place during the week, but come weekends, it is a hopping little tourist stop that is leg-power friendly.
If you visit Jerome, you must continue up the road (yeah, I know that this is a travel blog and that I should sound professional by stating the road number, but the atlas is all the way out in the van…), and drive to the top of the mountain behind Jerome. The roadway is nicely paved, but it is very windy and somewhat steep; you can get to Prescott this way, and it is beautiful. The views back at the Verde Valley, which you will have just left, are stunning. I would highly recommend taking the drive to Prescott (not with a very large RV tho!), as the entire drive is quite beautiful! It has multiple scenic turnouts for viewing, and is a great opportunity to get some fabulous pictures of the valley.
The Verde Valley has so much to offer the traveler! We very much enjoyed our day at Tuzigoot and the time spent exploring the surrounding area. A beautiful part of Arizona, and a lovely way to spend your day if you find yourself in the area!