Thursday, October 16, 2014

Montezuma's Well

The locations of Montezuma's Castle and Montezuma's Well are close enough that both can be done in the same day, but we recommend doing them on different days so that things to be seen aren't hurried past or skipped all together.  We did them both on the same day and had to make a return trip to Montezuma's Well to do it right! 
Montezuma's Well is a naturally occurring spring in the desert.  Even in times of regional drought, about 1.6 million gallons of water flow through two main vents at the well's bottom each day.  The flow is fairly regular and the temperature is a nearly constant 74 degrees. Diving explorations have determined that there are no fish in the water, but thousands of freshwater leeches! The good news is that the leeches are not the blood sucking type, but a leech specific to the well that eats amphipods! At 55 feet divers report that fine sand boils up in swirling cascading mounds creating a false bottom. The vents are another 65 feet down!  Without fish, the well does not have typical lake dynamics. Carbon Dioxide 80 times higher than most lakes makes life impossible for fish, amphibians, and some aquatic insects. The well is the world's only home for five species, including a miniature shrimp-looking amphipod, a leech, a tiny snail, a water scorpion, and a type of one celled plant called a diatom.  The pond weeds have stems up to 25 feet long making them among the tallest aquatic plants in the world!      
Across the pond in the cliff face you can see pueblos. These were built by the Sinagua Indians during the same time period as Montezuma's Castle, 1100-1400 AD.  The well is a sacred location for the Zuni, Hopi, and Yavapai Indians whose origins are linked with the Sinagua Indians that lived here.    
The dwelling walls haven't been rebuilt, but only patched in place as needed.  Multiple room dwellings were also located on the upper rim of the well.
Be sure to take the steps down to pond level, as there are more pueblos and the water's exit way from the well!
This is an interesting pueblo.  Through the doorway and to the back of the room is a rough opening that appears to enter further into a cave.  You can see a similar opening to the back of the pueblo that would have been on the right!
When Roy and I see these rectangular pueblo foundations, we can't help but compare them to the efficiency and comfort we find in our little 24' camper and think how practical and comfortable the pueblos must have been for the people of that time period.
Here is a pretty dragon or damsel fly.  It was quite tiny.
Here's some of nature's artwork!
Isn't the late day reflection in the water pretty!
On our return trip to Montezuma's Well we had the energy to explore the ancient irrigation system the natives created over 1,000 years ago!  These steps down from the well's rim take you to the location where the well water exits from a natural 150' long underground passageway and reappears above Wet Beaver Creek.
The area below the hilltop is beautiful and serene!  It is said to stay about 20 degrees cooler than on top.  The irrigation ditch is known to have run about 7 miles and is over 1,000 years old.  It has been given some modern edge reinforcement to help preserve it.
This is the ditch as it proceeds downhill from higher up and closer to the rock hillside.  The water in the well and irrigation ditch is said to be high in arsenic content and may have caused ill health if the people drank from it rather than from Wet Beaver Creek that it pours into.  
The irrigation ditch is still used today by the community of Rimrock to water their fields and livestock!  It appears that as this tainted water mixes with the creek water it must become acceptable for use!
Isn't this pretty with the long roots flowing in the water and the foliage growing in the rock crevices!
On the far right is the crevice where the well water resurfaces from its underground passageway through the hillside and is then captured by the irrigation ditch! Without the irrigation ditch, the well water would run directly downhill into Wet Beaver Creek.