Enjoy Winter Bird Walks at National Park’s Montezuma Well in Arizona

Thursday, January 02 2014 22:24   Arizona
Beginning Jan. 4, 2014, the National Park Service will offer twice a month winter bird walks at the Montezuma Well unit of Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona.

Visitors can join Ranger Melinda McFarland to explore the diverse bird life inhabiting the different ecosystems around the Well. Bird walks will begin at 8:30 a.m. every first and third Saturday through April, weather permitting. The park ranger will meet visitors at the picnic area and help identify birds around the site, while interpreting different species and their roles in the local environment.

commonblackhawkfledglingMontezuma Well is located 11 miles north of Montezuma Castle, at 5525 East Beaver Creek Road in Rimrock, Arizona. There is no entry fee at the Montezuma Well location, and the program is free.

Formed long ago by the collapse of a limestone cavern, more than one million gallons of water a day flows continuously into the well. This constant supply of warm, fresh water provides an aquatic habitat like no other in the world, and has served as an oasis for wildlife and humans for thousands of years.

Participants should bring drinking water and binoculars, if they have them, and wear clothing and footwear appropriate for an easy to moderate hike. Programs last approximately two hours.

Visitors may call the Montezuma Castle Visitor Center at (928) 567-3322 ext. 221 for more information.

The legacy of the Sinagua native culture surrounds you during a visit to Montezuma Well. From cliff dwellings perched along the rim to large pueblo ruins and an ancient pit house, the variety of these archeological sites is a testament to the ingenuity of these people.

Take your time as you explore the trails at Montezuma Well and discover the tranquility of a site still considered sacred by many local tribes. The shaded forest along the trail near the swallet ruin and the outlet provides welcome relief from the unrelenting Arizona sunshine. The temperature difference at the outlet can be up to 20 degrees cooler than along the rim of the well, making it easy to imagine the people of the Sinagua culture spending the hot summer days in this tranquil setting.

The constant supply of warm, 74 degree water was the life-blood of the people who made their home here.

More than 1.5 million gallons of water flows into the well every day, a rate that has not fluctuated measurably despite recent droughts throughout the state of Arizona. This water enters a "swallet" near the end of the trail into the well and flows through more than 150 feet of limestone before re-emerging from the outlet into an irrigation ditch on the other side. Sections of this ditch date back over 1,000 years. The value of this water is recognized still today, as many residents of nearby Rimrock rely on water flowing through the irrigation ditch for their gardens and livestock.

The Verde Valley, lying under the spectacular pine-clad cliffs of the Mogollon Rim of central Arizona, forms an immense biological transition between desert, grassland, and forest vegetation zones.

As the seasons change, this endangered riparian habitat of the Verde River serves as a migration corridor for many animals (through land and air). But for thousands of years, the Verde Valley was also a haven for the movement of people, providing the food and water all life needs for survival.

The national monuments of the Verde Valley-Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well, and Tuzigoot-protect and interpret the legacy of the Sinagua culture, native people who flourished here for centuries, long before Columbus claimed to have discovered this New World.

Montezuma Castle has been described as the best preserved and most dramatic cliff dwelling in the United States. Montezuma Well is a natural limestone sinkhole with prehistoric sites and several animal species found nowhere else in the world. Tuzigoot is the remains of a 110-room pueblo perched on a high ridge with a panoramic view of the Verde River and surrounding marshlands.

Although many of today's visitors marvel at the well-preserved Sinagua dwellings, remember to allow some time to experience the oasis of the riparian area as it supports a wide variety of fauna and flora.

For more information, visit the Montezuma Castle National Monment Website at
www.nps.gov/moca/ .


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