Located in the Superstition Mountains in Gila County, Arizona, the Tonto National Monument is an area that features several well-preserved cliff dwellings from the Salado culture dating back to the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries. Situated on the northeastern edge of the Sonoran Desert, the National Monument is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and attracts visitors from all over the world to see the dwellings, which overlook Theodore Roosevelt Lake and the surrounding Sonoran Desert.

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Cliff Dwellings

Located within the Tonto Basin of the Upper Sonoran Desert, the Tonto National Monument takes care of two beautifully preserved prehistoric cliff dwellings, along with an array of various artifacts and items found in the area. The well-preserved cliff dwellings dating back to the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries when they were occupied by the Salado culture, who farmed in the Salt River Valley. The Salt River originally flowed through the Tonto Basin, creating a well-irrigated and lush landscape on which to farm. Today, the Tonto Basin has flooded and formed the Theodore Roosevelt Lake, over which the dwellings look. Fine craftspeople, the Salado produced intricately woven textiles and vibrant polychrome pottery, remnants if which have been discovered at the site and are on display in the Visitor Center Museum. The site features a 20-room Lower Cliff Dwelling and a 40-room Upper Cliff Dwelling, both of which are believed to have been started in around 1330 CE.

Natural History

In addition to the cliff dwellings, the National Monument is surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes that are home to a diverse variety of fauna and flora. The Tonto National Forest features desert scrubland, flat plains, and dense alpine forests, while the Upper Sonoran ecosystem is renowned for its native saguaro cacti, as well as other plants such as yucca, prickly pear, cholla, barrel cacti, agave, and mesquite trees.

A lush riparian area of the region is home to a range of trees such as hackberry, Arizona Sycamore, and Arizona walnut, and acres of colorful wildflowers in good years when there is rain. Native fauna to call the region home include mountain lion, whitetail and mule deer, bobcat, and three rattlesnake species, among others. The area surrounding the Tonto National Monument also includes several designated National Wilderness Areas, including Salome Wilderness, Superstition, and Four Peaks.

Visitor Information

The Tonto National Monument is located within the Tonto Basin of the Upper Sonoran Desert, in the Superstition Mountains in Gila County, Arizona and is open to the public from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily. The Lower and Upper Cliff Dwellings are reached by short hiking trails - one mile to the Lower Cliff Dwelling and 3 miles to the Upper Cliff Dwelling from the Visitor Center. Guided tours of the dwellings are also available.

A Visitor Center offers an excellent introduction the monument, the cliff dwellings and the people who built them more than 700 years ago and a newly remodeled museum feature artifacts and replicas of items found in the homes. A park movie is shown on demand, and a bookstore sells educational and monument-related items.

26260 AZ-188, Roosevelt, AZ 85545, Phone: 928-467-2241

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