Montezuma Well

Round Trip Distance: 0.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 3531 - 3626 feet
Cellphone: 0-4 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Montezuma Well
Fee: none
Attractions: Cliff dwellings, unique geology

Montezuma Well is a detached annex of the Montezuma Castle National Monument located near Camp Verde, Arizona. The Montezuma Well unit protects the unique geological feature that is the well itself along with several cliff dwellings within the crater of the sinkhole, a multi-room pueblo located above the rim and a nearby pithouse. Montezuma Well is regarded as very sacred among the Yavapai for they believe that it was here that they emerged into this world.

Although part of the Montezuma Castle National Monument the Montezuma Well unit, which is about 11 miles away, is a fee free area. Leave Interstate 17 at exit 293 and follow Beaver Creek Road to the entrance.

The entire trail is paved and suitable for baby strollers if you can manage the few flights of stairs. The trail climbs the rim above the well making a loop that returns to the south end of the parking area. Two short spur trails lead down to the well and to the wells outlet along Wet Beaver Creek.

The well was formed by a large sinkhole. The water flowing from the well is a nearly constant 74 F with a flow rate upwards of 1.6 million gallons of water per day. Pondweed has invaded the well and requires constant maintenance to keep it from plugging the outlet. Arsenic, which is common in ground water, is at high levels of concentration in the well. Those that drank the water probably suffered over time the side effects of headaches, confusion, severe diarrhea and convulsions.

The manner in which the well is supplied is very interesting and bears mentioning. The water originates from the area of the Mongollon Rim at an elevation of around 7,000 feet. The water ends up flowing through the deep underground aquifer of the kastic Redwall Limestone. At the site of the well the water runs into a vertical basalt dike where it is forced to the surface.

Cliff dwellings are neatly nestled within eroded cavities beneath the rim.

A short trail leads down into the sinkhole to water level.

More structures have been built near the wells outlet where the water has dissolved a channel through the limestone allowing it to pass though the wall of the well.

Continuing around the rim above the well the trail passes by numerous rubble piles and several rooms with partially standing walls. A few pottery sherds can be seen from the trail intermingled with the piles of stones.

A second side trail leads down to the outlet near the creek. This part of the trail is so peaceful you will want to be sure not to miss it. The grassy banks of Wet Beaver Creek are lined with giant sycamore trees and velvet ash.

At this point the water spills into the canal rather than into the creek. The Sinagua harnessed the water for irrigation hundreds of years ago.

A pretty little canyon wren flutters about the rocks looking for bugs.

Montezuma Well is a very interesting site with its ever flowing water and numerous ruins. Another stop to make at Montezuma Well is along the access road shortly before the parking area where the ruins of a pithouse have been excavated. Near the entrance at the turnoff from Beaver Creek Road is a nice picnic area with lots of shade trees, grass and a restroom with running water. The entire area of Montezuma Well seems to be thoughtfully developed for the moderate number of visitors they receive each year. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.