Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Living in the cliffs at Tonto National Monument

Cliff dwellings -- National Park Service photo
If you dig archaeological ruins, then you’ll want to visit Tonto National Monument in central Arizona where the Salado peoples lived in cliff dwellings.

For 10,000 years, the Tonto Basin of the northern Sonoran Desert has provided a home to ancient peoples.  The most recent were the Salados, who blended the best of other Native Americans living in the region into their own unique culture.  While the Tonto Salados carved their homes out of the cliffs, the Salados built stone houses above ground just 25 miles away at Besh Ba Gowah in Globe.

There are two cliff dwelling settlements at Tonto National Monument. The lower dwelling is open all year round, while the upper dwelling can only be visited from November to April.

The Salads lived at Tonto for about 250 years from the 13th to 15 centuries. Then, like their counterparts at Besh Ba Gowah and the Hohokam at Casa Grande NationalMonument, they disappeared. They left behind their colorful pottery and high-quality weavings, which can be seen at the monument’s visitor center/museum. You can see an informative video about the Salados and Tonto on the upper deck of the visitor center.

Tonto National Monument, operated by the National Park Service, is open daily, only closing on Christmas Day.  Do note that if you’re visiting in the hot summer months, your footwear will be checked – flip flops are not allowed because they’ll melt on the hot asphalt walk up to the cliff dwellings.

The trail up is paved, making it handicapped accessible. It’s rather steep, so wheelchair users should make sure they have good brakes for the trip down.

It takes about a half-hour to get to Tonto from Globe. Take Highway 188 out of Globe.

The way up may be steep, but the views are great!

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