|Today Larry & I visited Montezuma Well, a natural limestone sinkhole through which some 1,400,000 US gallons of water flow each day through two underground springs providing a lush, verdant oasis in the midst of surrounding desert grassland. The well measures in at 368 feet across and 55 feet deep and sits at an elevation of 3,618 feet. The water is highly carbonated and contains high levels of arsenic. At least five endemic species live (only) in the Well: a diatom, a springtail, a water scorpion, the amphipod and the leech — the most endemic species in any spring in the Southwestern United States. It is also home to the Montezuma Well springsnail.
Locating the source of the well's water has researchers baffled. Tests using gas and dye have been performed, but so far, no connection has been established between the well's water and any other water source in the area. For trivia lovers, in May 1948, the U.S. Park Service used scuba equipment for the first time ever, to explore Montezuma's Well. They wanted to find out how deep it was. The divers went down about fifty feet, and then they noticed they couldn't see in front of themselves, even a few inches. It turns out that the real bottom was fifteen more feet down, and they were swimming in dark brown mud along with a few million leeches. Yuck, can you imagine?
Under the cliff edge the Sinagua Indians built several stone cliff dwellings, some quite well preserved, while the surrounding rim has other sites that now are just jumbled piles of stones.
Along the path up top, there are plaques pointing out the native vegetation like mesquite and juniper trees, cacti, and scrub. As you hike down toward the water, you find a cave with the ceiling blackened by many a neolithic cooking fire. Plenty of graffiti dating back to the 1800s. After we got back to the main path a short side trail lead us down to the exit channel of the well, where water emerges from the base of a limestone cliff and flows down a short ditch lined with white-barked Arizona sycamore trees before joining the permanent stream of Wet Beaver Creek. A source of water to the fields of the ancient peoples, the ditches were dug A.D. 1200-1300. This is known as the first irrigation system in the state of Arizona. An updated version of this system is still used to irrigate crops in the state today. When we first arrived we were the only one's there and enjoyed the peace & tranquility of the singing birds and rippling waters. It is shady down there from the cliff walls and large sycamore tree and provided a nice break from the warm sun. Which actually wasn't all that bad today as it was in the low 70's. But soon others arrived so we decided to move on.
One last note, the Yavapai people believe they emerged into this world through the well, and as such, it is a very sacred place to them. I can see why the site has served as an oasis for wildlife and people for thousands of years. I definitely enjoyed the short and easy walk around the well and I am sure you would too. Next stop, Montezuma Castle. But we'll share that on another day. In the meantime, enjoy your weekend. And don't forget to set your clocks forward an hour tonight. Unless you happen to be in Arizona of course!