Tonto National Monument, Roosevelt, Arizona

Louise Speaks:  The Tonto National Monument contains the ruins of two cliff dwellings established by the Salado Indians around 1300 AD.  The southeast facing settlements were built quite high up a steep hillside within well-protected natural caves overlooking the Tonto Basin, which is now flooded forming  Theodore Roosevelt Lake.   As with many other ancient peoples of the Southwest, the Salado appear to have abandoned their villages suddenly, early in the fifteenth century, for reasons which are not known.  The national monument, established by President Roosevelt in December 1907, is located 0.8 miles from state route 188also known as the Apache Trail, which we will be taking on the way home.  The shore of Theodore Roosevelt Lake, is in a generally rocky and quite empty area that has extensive and varied species of cactus. 

One of the two ancient dwellings, the lower cliff, is reached by a paved, half mile, self-guided trail which leads from the visitor center/museum quite steeply 350 feet up the side of a rocky hill, giving increasingly good views of Tonto Basin and Theodore Roosevelt Lake.   Along the way are notices about the native animals and plants – the area is especially abundant in cactus. The two-story Lower Ruin  originally had 19 rooms; most are quite well-preserved and it is permitted to walk through some of them.  Many surfaces are worn smooth from being walked over or touched yet the walls remain thick and strong,  not like the more delicate and intricate cliff dwellings of the Anasazi.  The settlement is constructed in a big alcove lined by unusual metamorphic rocks, greyish overall but including thin-layered components of more brighter colors.  Originally, the only access was by ladder, leading to an entrance at the far left of the structure, which made the village easy to defend.  A ranger is usually present at the ruins all day, to answer questions and monitor visitor behavior.  The second Upper ruin is larger, with 40 rooms, but further away and visitors must be accompanied by a ranger.


I’m sure by reading many of our previous monument posts, you are probably saying they are all the same, and this is somewhat true.  Indians were the natives here so this is their turf, but even though very similar these Indian ruins / monuments are still different and unique in their own way.  We are almost done with having visited all the National Monuments in Arizona, then it will be on to another state and another bucket list.

Ironwood National Monument, Marana, Arizona

Louise Speaks;  Well today is going to be a very long day.  We have 14 stops scheduled for today and the first stop is over an hour away from home.  Not only do we visit the normal tourist attractions, and the Quirky things we find from state to state we are also trying to complete all the state parks and the national monuments in Arizona.   I’m guessing this next ones is not that much to see since it is in the middle of the desert.

Ironwood Forest National Monument is off the I-10 freeway 25 miles north of Tucson.  There are two exits off the I-10 that lead you to Ironwood, but both entrances are mostly dirt roads.  This monument is probably the newest one since it was only created by Bill Clinton by Presidential Proclamation on June 9, 2000.  The monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management, but we are still listing it as a national monument.

Taking its name from one of the longest living trees in the Sonoran Desert, the Ironwood Forest is recognized for its rugged scenery.  Among the dramatic mountain backdrops are the area’s last remaining population of Desert Bighorn Sheep. Mesquite, palo verde, creosote, and dense stands of Saguaro cactus.

This Ironwood Monument is made up of 129,000-acres and contains a significant system of cultural and historical sites. Three areas within the monument, are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   The monument is a travel corridor for illegal immigrants traveling from Mexico.  Visitors should stay safe by avoiding contact with persons exhibiting suspicious behavior or engaged in dangerous activities.  Drive with caution and look for fast-moving vehicles and pedestrians on back roads.  These are warnings posted everywhere along the entrance to the monument.

We didn’t stay very long here and I’m sure by the pictures you can see why.  This was merely a stop to complete our list and since we’re heading to Tucson we figured this was the best time to stop.

Coronado National Monument, Hereford, AZ

Louise Speaks: Continuing thru Hereford on the outskirts of town is the Coronado National Memorial.  The Coronado National Memorial commemorates the first organized expedition into the Southwest by conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.  The memorial is located in a natural setting on the international border.  The memorial confirms the ties that bind the United States and Mexico.  Coronado National Memorial was established to interpret the Coronado Expedition.  While there is no physical evidence of the expedition in the present memorial, the park offers a sweeping view of the San Pedro River  which is widely regarded as the corridor that the expedition used on their way north to the mythical Cíbola.

We got here after the visitor center had closed so were unable to partake in any of the tours or hikes.  There is a park ranger guided cave tour.  The Coronado Cave became part of Coronado National Memorial in 1978, when the park expanded its boundaries. The cave may have been used by humans as a shelter and hideout, however no archaeological evidence remains in the cave today.  The cave is now one of the few open, undeveloped caves in southern Arizona.  Coronado Cave is a large cavern 600 feet long and in most places about 70 feet wide.  Had we been here during tour time, we probably would have taken this tour as we have been on many cave tours over the years,

There really isn’t much to see here other than the desert.  This area is again a memorial to honor a piece of history,  We had to stop since it is on our list…lol.