When people think about the United States, and the Southwest in particular, they don’t really think about there being any castles. However, the southwestern region of the country has several “castles” that are not only interesting to see but also have their own unique and fascinating stories. From a stone castle built into a cliffside by hand to an elegant castle estate, there is a wide range of castles to be found in the state of Arizona as well as castles of interest to just about every visitor to the American Southwest. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
2.Castles in Arizona: Mollohan Castle
3.Montezuma Castle National Monument
4.Castles in Arizona: Mystery Castle
5.Arizona Castles: Sibley Castle
6.Arizona Castles: The Ashley Castle
7.Arizona Castles: Tovrea at Carraro Heights
7 Best Castles in Arizona
- Camelback Castle, Photo: Courtesy of anatoliil - Fotolia.com
- Castles in Arizona: Mollohan Castle, Photo: Mollohan Castle
- Montezuma Castle National Monument, Photo: Courtesy of Jana - Fotolia.com
- Castles in Arizona: Mystery Castle, Photo: Courtesy of johnalexandr - Fotolia.com
- Arizona Castles: Sibley Castle, Photo: Courtesy of Gaja - Fotolia.com
- Arizona Castles: The Ashley Castle, Photo: Courtesy of IKvyatkovskaya - Fotolia.com
- Arizona Castles: Tovrea at Carraro Heights, Photo: Courtesy of Chris - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Tom - Fotolia.com
More Ideas in AZ: Walnut Canyon National Monument
Walnut Canyon is a national monument in Flagstaff, Arizona with preserved ancient cliff dwellings constructed by the Sinagua people, a central Arizonan pre-Colombian culture that lived between 500 and 1425 CE. The dwellings were built between 1100 and 1250 CE. The National Monument spans 3,600 acres just 8 miles southeast of Flagstaff, with a 6-mile stretch that encompasses Walnut Creek and the length of the canyon where the Sinagua built their homes. The National Monument offers several vantage points from which to see the cliff dwellings and surrounding geological structures.
The Island Trail passes by 25 of the rooms, and more can be seen across the canyon from the trail. Today, there are 80 dwellings in total, and at one point numbered close to 300 rooms. The Island Trail is a strenuous, 1-mile trip that takes approximately 1 hour to complete. Although paved, it descends almost 200 feet into the canyon, and hikers return uphill the same way. Each of the rooms, set just off the edge of the trail, is approximately 20 feet wide, 7 feet tall, and 10 feet deep; just large enough for a single family to cook and sleep in. Originally, the caves would have been reinforced with golden clay walls, with the doorways supported with wooden beams and wooden doors. The Rim Trail offers a self-guided hike through the ponderosa forest overlooking the canyon. There are two built-in overlooks on the 0.7-mile round-trip trail, which traverses the areas in which the Sinagua grew their crops. Hikers walk past an ancient pithouse as well as a pueblo. These were the first dwellings in which the Sinagua lived. It was not until 1100 CE that the alcoves were carved out of the eroded limestone rocks. The Rim Trail is paved, wheelchair accessible, and offers an easy 30-minute hike. Wildlife enthusiasts may see over 100 species of birds in the canyons as well as jack rabbits, coyote, mule deer, and elk, among other animals. The northern goshawk, one of the rarest raptors in the United States, is a resident of the canyon, as are peregrine falcons and golden eagles. The Walnut Canyon Visitor Center offers expansive views of the canyon and surrounding land, and includes amenities such as a picnic area, a bookstore, and restrooms. A small museum at the visitor center offers exhibits and a display of native artifacts.
History: The Sinagua is the name given to this ancient group by archeologists, from the old Spanish name for the region, Sierra de Sin Agua, meaning “mountains without water.” The Sinagua were the first to create permanent dwellings in the canyon, although they were not the first to live there. They adapted to the dry climate of Arizona with advanced techniques for finding and conserving water as well as farming. The Sinagua grew corn, squas,h and beans in volcanic terrain using a method known as “dry farming.” Advanced irrigation techniques included the building of terraces and rock dams to store and conserve rain water. Although the crops provided much of their food, the Sinagua were likely attracted to the area by the variety of plant species and wildlife, and hunted bighorn sheep and deer. The Sinagua suddenly left their cliffside homes in 1250 to move to nearby villages, leaving over 80 dwellings behind. It is not known what triggered the move, but speculation includes drought or fear of neighboring tribes. In the 1880s many of the dwellings were dynamited by treasure hunters in search of Sinagua possessions. The alarming theft and destruction is what drove local citizens to establish the National Monument in 1915.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Daily ranger talks take place at 10:00am. Two Discovery Hikes are available in the summer months through Labor Day. Reservations are required for the ranger-guided hikes. The Canyon Ledge Hike is a strenuous 90-minute hike that takes visitors past the ancient cave dwellings, up along narrow ledges and rocky slopes. The Ranger Cabin Walk takes guests on an easy 2-hour hike to the recently restored ranger cabin. Built in 1904, the log cabin was originally where rangers and their families lived as they worked to protect the park and welcome visitors. One of the oldest remaining log cabins in Arizona, the home was added to the Nation Register of Historic Places in 1975.
What’s Nearby: Camping is unavailable at Walnut Creek National Monument, but visitors to the area can camp at Bonito Campground in the Coconino National Forest just across the street.
6400 U.S. 89, Flagstaff, AZ 86004, Phone: 928-526-3367
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More Ideas in AZ: Hoover Dam
Located in the Colorado River’s Black Canyon along the border between Nevada and Arizona in the United States, Hoover Dam, originally called Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch gravity dam constructed during the American Great Depression. The origins of Hoover Dam stretch back to the end of the 19th century with early attempts to divert the Colorado River’s waters for the purposes of flood control, irrigation, and power production. The operation of the Alamo Canal starting in the 1890s was fraught with financial difficulties, catastrophic breaches, and landowner disputes, prompting consideration of using the Lower Colorado as a hydroelectric power source.
Surveys throughout the early part of the 20th century suggested the creation of a dam, including a survey conducted by the Reclamation Service, which is now known as the United States Bureau of Reclamation. Though the Reclamation Service rejected initial dam proposals suggesting the use of dynamite to collapse Boulder Canyon’s walls, a 1922 report by the agency, known as the Fall-Davis report, officially recommended development of a dam in the area, around 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas.
Authorization for the project was approved by the United States Congress in 1928 and granted to the Six Companies, Inc. consortium. $165 million in funds was designated for the dam as part of the Boulder Canyon Project Act, and a design for a concrete arch-gravity dam, overseen by Bureau engineer John L. Savage, was chosen as the official plan for construction. Though the city of Las Vegas lobbied heavily to be used as headquarters for dam construction, a model city, forming the basis of modern-day Boulder City, Nevada, was constructed for the project instead. More than 5,000 workers contributed to the construction of the dam between 1931 and 1936, with 112 dying throughout the construction process due to dangerous working conditions and high local summertime heat.
By the time of its completion two years ahead of the originally presented schedule, more than 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete had been used in the construction of the dam, with another 1,110,000 cubic yards used in construction of the facility’s power plant, enough to otherwise pave a two-lane highway stretching from New York to San Francisco. A formal dedication ceremony for the dam with a speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt took place on September 30, 1935, drawing a crowd of 10,000, though work on the dam was not officially completed until March of 1936.
During surveying and construction, the dam was referred to as the Boulder Dam or the Boulder Canyon Dam, although no official name was mentioned in initial legislation. The name “Hoover Dam” was coined by Secretary of the Interior Ray Wilbur in a 1930 address to Las Vegas commencing the building of a railway between Las Vegas and Boulder City for the dam’s construction, citing a supposed tradition of naming dams after American presidents, though no such tradition existed on record. Controversy over the dam’s name ensued over the next several years, precipitated by the election defeat of President Herbert Hoover in 1932 and spearheaded by lobbying efforts by incoming Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, who preferred the name “Boulder Dam.” The Boulder Dam name failed to take hold with the American media, however, and in 1947, Congress officially restored the Hoover Dam naming.
Permanent Structures and Attractions
Today, the dam is designated as a National Historic Landmark and remains one of the most renowned architectural achievements in modern history, listed as one of the Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders of America by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The dam impounds the Lake Mead reservoir, capturing the entire Colorado River flow and generating power through its series of turbines and generators. Annual net power generation at the facility varies between two and 10 terawatt hours, though concerns in the 2010s over falling water levels at Lake Mead due to increased drought have called the long-term future of dam operations into question. Water from Lake Mead is also used for municipal and irrigation purposes, serving more than 18 million people across the southwestern United States and supplying water for more than a million acres of farmland.
The dam is designed in an Art Deco style with sculpted turrets along its face, elements applied to its construction plans by Los Angeles architect Gordon B. Kaufmann. Decoration for the interior of the dam facility was overseen by Denver artist Allen Tupper True, who incorporated Native American tribal and natural motifs and a color-coding system for the facility’s pipes and machinery. Sculptures adorning the dam and its surrounding grounds were created by Norwegian-born sculptor Oskar J.W. Hansen, including a memorial for the 112 fallen dam workers. A terrazzo floor on the base of the monument contains an astrological map depicting the sky of the Northern Hemisphere at the time of the dam’s dedication.
The dam facility is one of the country’s leading tourist attractions, drawing more than a million annual visitors to its tours, which have been presented by the Bureau of Reclamation since 1937. Two tour packages are offered, a 30-minute power plant tour and an hourlong dam tour. The power plant tour combines guide presentations with multimedia exhibits, while the full dam tour offers a docent-led exploration of the facility’s power plant and passageways, highlighting historical anecdotes and information about lesser-known parts of the facility. All tours include admission to the facility’s Visitor Center, which features exhibits about the dam’s history and operations, and food concession and gift shop facilities are available near the dam’s parking garage. Educational tours for school groups and organizations are offered by appointment, and private event rental may be arranged to use the facility for weddings, conferences, and other special events.
P.O. Box 60400, Boulder City, NV 89005, Phone: 702-494-2302
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More Ideas in AZ: Petrified Forest National Park
Located in Apache and Navajo Counties in northeastern Arizona, Petrified Forest National Park is a 230-square-mile park named for its deposits of petrified fallen tree fossils from the Late Triassic Period. Much of the unique geology of the Petrified Forest area is formed from sediments containing fossilized logs of trees from the Late Triassic Period, which occurred around 225 million years ago.
The sediments of this fossilized material, which also includes smaller plant life and animal remains from the Late Triassic, is referred to as the Chinle Formation where it appears within the boundaries of the Petrified Forest. An assortment of sedimentary rocks, including soft mud, silt, and bentonite clay, as well as harder limestone and sandstone, formed a unique multicolored pattern of rock in the area. Around 60 million years ago, tectonic activity in the area that now encompasses the southwestern United States caused the Colorado Plateau area to be pushed upward more than 10,000 feet above sea level, exposing the rock formations to erosion by wind and water. As a result, the area has been carved into colorful badlands formations comprised of cliffs, mesas, and rounded hills.
Humans have inhabited the Colorado Plateau area for more than 13,000 continuous years, first arriving in nomadic tribes at the end of the last Ice Age. The earliest inhabitants of what is now the Petrified Forest arrived around 8,000 years ago, transitioning from early hunter-gatherer societies into the agricultural communities of the Ancient Pueblo people, though persistent dry climate conditions caused mass migration away from the area by the 15th century. European settlers passed through the area throughout the 16th through 19th centuries, dubbing the area the Painted Desert due to the variety of rock sediment coloring.
Commercial development of the area throughout the 1800s led to an increased interest in the use of petrified wood as commercial material, and as a result, an increase in interest in the preservation of the material. Excavations throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries uncovered more than 500 historic indigenous archaeological sites, along with a large number of prehistoric skeletons and other fossils. The earliest attempts to preserve the area as a national park date back to 1895, and a decade later, the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt established the area as a national monument. The monument was designated as a national park in 1962, and several preservation acts since have worked to combat the problem of theft and vandalism of petrified wood within the park.
Today, the park encompasses around 230 square miles, bordered by the Navajo Nation on its northern and northeastern ends, and serves around 650,000 annual visitors. Its elevation ranges from 5,340 feet to 6,230 feet above sea level, featuring a major concentration of its petrified wood deposits in its southern end. The park’s climate is dry and windy, experiencing wide temperature variation throughout the year, ranging from freezing temperatures in the winter to summer highs of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. More than 447 flora species are native to the area’s semi-desert shrub steppe climate, including more than 100 unique species of grass. Animal life found in the park includes coyotes, bobcats, pronghorns, jackrabbits, and 216 species of migratory and permanent resident birds.
The park’s headquarters are located 28 miles east of the city of Holbrook and are accessible via Interstate 40. The Painted Desert Visitor Center, part of the Painted Desert Community Complex Historic District, provides visitor information and shows a 15-minute park orientation film, Timeless Impressions. Nearby, the Painted Desert Inn provides lodging for park visitors and contains murals that serve as a museum exhibit dedicated to Hopi tribal life. On the southern end of the park, the Rainbow Forest Museum displays exhibits showcasing petrified fossils and wood recovered from the park and provides information on the area’s prehistoric life.
Several overlooks near the Visitor Center provide views of the park’s Painted Desert areas, including Chinde Point, which offers picnic facilities, and Tawa Point, which serves as a trailhead for the mile-roundtrip Painted Desert Rim Trail. South of historic Route 66 and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, which intersect the park from east to west, the Puerco Pueblo archaeological site showcases the excavated remains of Pueblo structures from more than 600 years ago, and nearby Newspaper Rock features more than 650 ancient petroglyph rock carvings. The Jasper Forest area is home to the park’s largest accumulation of petrified wood, while the Blue Mesa, Crystal Forest, Long Logs, Giant Logs, and Agate House trails provide hiking routes of varied length and difficulty.
In addition to self-guided hiking and backpacking along the park’s trails, horseback riding is permitted within the park’s grounds. Permit camping is permitted in the park’s Wilderness Area, located north of the Visitor Center and accessible via the Kachina Point access trail. Cultural demonstrations are presented throughout the park periodically, showcasing indigenous traditions, and ranger-led guided hikes are offered seasonally. The Petrified Forest Field Institute offers courses related to various history, archaeology, and cultural topics, and an artist-in-residence program brings a variety of multimedia artists to the park to create works and present demonstrations in natural surroundings.
1 Park Road, PO Box 2217, Petrified Forest, AZ 86028, Phone: 928-524-6228
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