Thursday, April 29, 2010

Montezuma Well National Monument

Just a few miles down the road from Montezuma Castle is another little oasis in the Arizona desert: an amazing natural spring called Montezuma Well. We weren't expecting much, but were pleasantly surprised again by the natural wonder of this unique place.

The main feature of the well is a basin of water 55 feet deep and 368 feet in diameter fed by a couple of subterranean springs at its bottom. Geologists think this sink was once a water-filled cavern that collapsed, exposing the water source to the atmosphere and creating the bowl shaped feature we see today. In the middle of the image above is the swallet where the water exits the basin, but we'll get to that in a little bit. Meanwhile, you might be interested to know that the growth on top of the water is Illinois Pondweed that must be removed periodically lest it prevent the water from flowing out of the well.

The girls are making their way down from the rim around the well to a section of shoreline that's accessible. The temperature of the water entering the well from below remains at 76°F all year round.

This is part of the walking trail near the water level that was amazingly lush compared to the desert less than 100 feet away. Karen thought this part of the trail was almost like the path behind the Governor's Palace in Williamsburg.

This view from the edge of the well reveals more cliff dwellings on the east wall of the well. Because of the high levels of carbon dioxide in the water, there are no fish in the well, but tiny shrimplike amphipods feed on the algae, and are themselves food for leeches, water scorpions, turtles, muskrats, and many other animals.

The placard shown here explains how the water runs out of the well into an irrigation ditch below. Over 1.5 million gallons of water flow out of the well every day! That source of water made a huge difference in the ability of farms to survive in this region.

This is the irrigation ditch where the water flows out of the well, and it was surprising how much cooler and lush it was in this protected area. Notice the huge sycamore tree growing at an angle out of the ground near the well's outlet.

Here's another view of the irrigation ditch and the relaxing environment it creates just outside the well.

Finally, here's 21 seconds worth of video so you can get a slightly different perspective on this unique section of the site. Thanks for visiting!


  1. The girls look so lovely and fresh even though they are out hiking... I love it!

    And I never even knew this particular spot existed. What a wonderful place it must have been for the original people who lived there... such easily accessibly water and lush vegetation in the middle of the desert!

  2. Diane -- I wonder why anyone ever moved away? Perhaps they were forced, perhaps they longed for an easier life in a larger community, who knows?