Montezuma Castle is basically a 20-room high-rise apartment complex built into the face of a towering limestone cliff. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt declared Montezuma Castle as one of America's first four National Monuments. But even by then, there were very few original artifacts left on the property because of the extensive looting that had already taken place. "Castle A" is another nearby structure from the same time period that was first discovered and excavated in 1933. Castle A is a 45-50 room ruin. In the excavation of it, numerous artifacts were found, artifacts that greatly enhanced our understanding of the Sinagua culture. The Sinagua people were an Ancestral Puebloan culture that had previously been known for their constructions in the Flagstaff area (Wupatki, Tuzigoot, Walnut Canyon, etc.) Montezuma Castle and Castle A were both built in a riparian area along Beaver Creek in the Verde Valley, about 900 years ago and were abandoned around 1425 CE.

Several modern-day Hopi clans trace their ancestral lineage back to homes in the Montezuma Castle/Beaver Creek area. Periodically, clan members return to the area to perform religious ceremonies to honor their ancestors.

Montezuma Castle closeup
A closeup of Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Well
Near Montezuma Well

In the early days of the Montezuma Castle National Monument, visitors were allowed to access the structures via a series of ladders up the side of the cliffs. However, this resulted in extensive damage to the buildings and the public has been denied access to Montezuma Castle since 1951. Visitors were allowed into Castle A until 1978.

Montezuma Well is a separate unit of the Montezuma Castle National Monument, located about 11 miles away from the Castle. This was a limestone cave that collapsed many, many years ago and is now a riparian and aquatic habitat fed by the outflow of more than 1 million gallons of warm, fresh water per day. The Sinaguan people built several structures in the cliffs around the Well, too, and also built an irrigation ditch that is still in use today. In the Yavapai people's creation story, their tribe emerged in this world through the Montezuma Well, making that a particularly sacred place for them.