Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

From the cliffs of Montezuma

with 22 comments


Let’s get two things straight about Montezuma Castle: Montezuma, the Aztec emperor, had nothing to do with it, and it’s not a castle. No, this cliff in northern Arizona shelters the 600-year-old remains of a cliff dwelling created by a people called the Sinagua. And let’s get a third thing straight: that wasn’t their name. No, Sinagua was a name created in 1939 from the Spanish words sin ‘without’ and agua ‘water,’ based on the scarcity of flowing water in the region.

The prominent plants in the foreground are four-wing saltbushes, Atriplex canescens. Here’s a closer look at some saltbushes bordering the parking lot:


If you want an even closer look, you can check out a post about our 2014 trip to the Southwest.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 18, 2017 at 5:01 AM

22 Responses

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  1. Excellent.


    February 18, 2017 at 5:27 AM

  2. I’m amused that you chose a tltle evoking a “marine” environment for a post about a place “without water.” Beyond that, seeing the place without any apparent access, such as ladders, makes me wonder if cliff dwellers got the idea from cliff swallows, whose nests these homes suggest.


    February 18, 2017 at 7:15 AM

    • What an interesting speculation. Too bad we can’t get in a time machine and go back to ask cliff dwellers how they came up with the idea of living there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 18, 2017 at 12:33 PM

  3. So far I only knew about the “Halls of Montezuma”. 😉


    February 18, 2017 at 8:16 AM

  4. Great post, Steve.

    Jane Lurie

    February 18, 2017 at 11:00 AM

  5. It’s been so long since I visited this location. Thanks much for bringing back some fond memories, Steve!

    Todd Henson

    February 18, 2017 at 4:02 PM

  6. One of my favorite places to visit is the Indian lands of the desert southwest. I probably told you this before, but Bob and I traveled and camped for two weeks on our honeymoon to see this and other wonderful places. It is strange to visit a place that is so old, so silent, and yet speaks so strongly of the people who lived there long ago.

    It is hard to put this to words (I think about it every time I remember our time there) but I always felt that if I could have just turned around looking behind me fast enough, that I would see them busy about their day.


    February 18, 2017 at 10:47 PM

    • How nice to bring back those memories from your honeymoon. I like your vision of quickly turning around and being able to look into the past.

      Steve Schwartzman

      February 19, 2017 at 3:49 AM

  7. Sometimes it is amusing how people give names to places that have no basis. I imagine that the difficulty to access those dwelling was part of the self-defense strategy for “building” there. I can’t imagine the amount of work it took to create them.

    Steve Gingold

    February 19, 2017 at 5:14 PM

  8. This made me smile – I’ve been to Montezuma’s Castle before and didn’t have a clue. Thanks for sharing 🙂


    February 20, 2017 at 12:16 AM

  9. Impressive structure!!


    February 20, 2017 at 7:33 PM

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