Living on the edge at the ancient pueblos of Walnut Canyon, the 800 year old high-rise apartment known as Montezuma Castle and the Roman Catholic chapel built into the buttes of Sedona, Arizona.
The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a Roman Catholic chapel built into the buttes of Sedona, Arizona. It was inspired and commissioned by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, who had been inspired in 1932 by the newly constructed Empire State Building to build such a church. After an attempt to do so in Budapest, Hungary (with the help of Lloyd Wright, son of noted architect, Frank Lloyd Wright) was aborted due to the outbreak of World War II, she decided to build the church in Sedona, AZ.
The American Institute of Architects gave the Chapel its Award of Honor in 1957. In the sculptor’s words, “Though Catholic in faith, as a work of art the Chapel has a universal appeal. Its doors will ever be open to one and all, regardless of creed, that God may come to life in the souls of all men (and women) and be a living reality.”
The chapel is built on Coconino National Forest land; the late Senator Barry Goldwater assisted Staude in obtaining a special-use permit. It cost $300,000, took 18 months to build and was completed in 1956.
In 2007, Arizonans voted the Chapel to be one of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona. It’s also the site of one of the so-called Sedona vortexes.
In densely-wooded plateau country southeast of Flagstaff, the small seasonal stream Walnut Creek has carved a 600 foot deep canyon as it flows east, eventually joining the Little Colorado River en route to the Grand Canyon. The canyon was formed by Walnut Creek, and lies on the Colorado Plateau. Here, the Sinagua built around 80 dwellings beneath ledges of Kaibab limestone.
If you only have a limited amount of time like I did, hike the Island Trail loop. I arrived right when they opened @ 9am and was done within 45 minutes. The best part was not seeing a single person while on the trail.
It’s 204 steps down to the cliff dwellings which means it’s 204 steps back up.
Whoa! That’s what I said after my asthma kicked in.
The exposed Kaibab limestone that forms the upper third of the canyon walls occurs in various layers of slightly differing hardness, some of which have eroded more rapidly forming shallow alcoves.
The cliff dwellings are that way —>
Many of the ancient dwellings were built around a U-shaped meander in the canyon, where the creek circles around three sides of a high rocky plateau, almost creating an ‘island’.
Walnut Canyon National Monument was established in 1915 to preserve numerous Prehistoric archaeological sites which are spectacularly located in cliffs and along the rim of Walnut Canyon. The focus of the proclamation was protection from looting and vandalism of the cliff dwelling structures located under the canyon’s limestone ledges.
Evidence of human use at Walnut Canyon can be traced back over 2,000 years.
Based on ceramic analysis and tree ring dates, most Sinagua sites in the area date from 1100-1225 AD.
It is believed that the Sinagua Indians migrated from the Sunset Crater area just north of Flagstaff when volcanic eruptions made that land virtually uninhabitable. As skilled farmers, the waters from Walnut Creek that fed their new canyon home made soil fertile and ideal for growing crops. Sinagua is Spanish for “without water”, an acknowledgement that the Sinagua people were able to live in a such a dry region. By living in such a region, the Sinagua became experts at conserving water and dealing with droughts. The Sinagua were also believed to have been active traders that stretched to the Gulf of Mexico and even as far as Central America.
The Sinagua mysteriously left Walnut Canyon in about 1250 AD. Many believe they integrated with other ancient Indian tribes and were the ancestors of today’s Hopi and Navajo Native Americans. It is thought they left because of fear of neighboring tribes or droughts, but it is not certain.
When the railroad passed by in the 1880s, amateur archaeologists swarmed Walnut Canyon in search of Indian artifacts. Unfortunately, they destroyed much more than they discovered. There are many other ruins in the 20 by 10 mile area but none are accessible to the public.
Under the overhangs, these ancient natives constructed three side walls of rock and mud masonry with the back side of the alcove walls acting as the fourth wall.
The 0.9 mi long loop trail descends 185 ft into the canyon passing 25 cliff dwelling rooms.
The Walnut Canyon site is near Flagstaff. It is 7 miles east of I-40 and 3 miles south of exit 204.
Montezuma Castle is one of a number of well-preserved ancient dwellings in north central Arizona. It’s located just two miles from I-17 (exit 289; north Camp Verde) at the end of a side road that winds across flat scrubland and down into the wooded valley formed by Beaver Creek – a small stream, but a reliable source of water all year round and hence a good locality for the Sinagua to establish a home. The castle is an imposing 20 room, 5-story structure built into a recess in a white limestone cliff about 70 feet above the ground. The good state of preservation of the ruins is due in part to their protected location, shielded from rain and sun, and also the relatively early designation of the site as a national monument in 1906.
When first (re)discovered the ruins were thought to be Aztec in origin, hence the name bestowed on them by early explorers, but they are now known to belong to the Sinagua Indian peoples who farmed the surrounding land between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, before abandoning the area.
Protecting and preserving historic, sacred, and sensitive sites should be practiced by all. Locations, directions, and names to some of the places found on this site are not listed, please don’t ask for them. Tread lightly, leave no trace and always respect the wonder that surrounds you.