Besh Ba Gowah: park visitor tips, random facts

During its days of population, Besh Ba Gowah, an archeological park in Globe, had about 400 rooms. It’s impossible to get an accurate number of rooms because excavation during the 1940s may have bulldozed perimeter areas of the original settlement. No results were published after a five-year excavation project during the 1930s because of the director’s untimely death.

Polychrome pottery can be seen at the museum

Salado Indians who inhabited Besh Ba Gowah (approximately 1150 to 1430) were master potters and used a method known as polychrome – adding black, red and white paint and dyes to create colorful geometric shapes on the earthenware. Interestingly, the Salado had other distinctions such as burying the dead (as opposed to cremating), using advanced irrigation techniques and building their homes from the ground up using masonry-type construction with rocks and boulders. Salado Indians may have been a mixed culture of Hohokam and other regional ancient communities. From the jewelry and artifacts found at the Besh Ba Gowah site, it appears that the Salado were traders; trading networks may have extended to the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean.

Besh Ba Gowah is actually an Apache term, used much later to describe the settlement as a “place of metals,” probably referring to nearby mining activity of the 1800s.

Climb up to the second level rooms

Visitors can climb up to the rooftops of some of the buildings. On the second level, you will be able to get a better idea of the massive size and layout of the settlement.

Note varying sizes of entrances such as the wall crawlspace at far right

Noteworthy are the varying sizes of the doorways and the long, once-covered corridors which connect outer sections of the pueblo to a central, open plaza area. These building features may have been built to defend their community. Intruders could have been more easily fought off if they had to crawl through a small “doggy” door or climb up to a second floor level.

Barrel cacti in bloom at Besh Ba Gowah's ethnobotantical garden

Don’t miss a walk through the ethnobotanical and adjacent botanical gardens with a large display of cacti and other desert flora. Learn how the Salado Indians used these plants for both food and clothing. According to its website, the city park accepts unwanted desert plants from area homeowners.

If you’re a first time visitor, I recommend taking time to view the 14-minute video before you stroll through the ruins. It will give you a brief overview of the Salado Indians, their anthropological and archeological history and restoration. For me, it allows a greater appreciation of ruins and museum.

Spend a few minutes in gift shop after your tour.  In addition to the usual Arizona tourist gifts, the shop carries a wide selection of interesting souvenirs plus artwork by local artists.

Besh Ba Gowah Archeological Park is located at 1324 S. Jesse Hayes Road. Admission is $5. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Wait a minute! Somebody's still living here!

Further reading about the Salado culture:

The Salado: A Crossroads in Cultures

Besh Ba Gowah by James Q. Jacobs

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Tuzigoot tour: In the steps of the Sinagua people

"Step Back in Time - Visit Tuzigoot"

Sometimes when I visit a historical monument, I’m reminded of the adage: “to understand people, walk a mile in their shoes” (or moccasins, sandals). It’s a good way to get the most out of my visit – to imagine how life must have been during that era. I thought about that on my recent return to Tuzigoot National Monument. I gained a new appreciation for these hunter-gathering people who lived in the Verde Valley between 700 and 1400 AD. I considered myself walking that ‘mile’ – or even just a few steps.

 

 

Tuzigoot visitor center entrance has its own historical significance

1. Step Inside

 

Visit the Tuzigoot Museum and Visitor’s Center. I recommend seeing this before the ruins. Interpretive and interactive exhibits explain the story of the Sinagua people. Learn about the structures and the differences between these pueblos and other nearby ruin sites. Even the museum itself has an interesting story. If you’ve been to Tuzigoot before but haven’t been recently, know that the exhibits are continually being updated. Kids of any age will enjoy the Junior Ranger program.

 

View of the visitor center and limestone ridges in the distance

 

2. Step Out

 

It’s time to take a little walk up that path to the pueblo. The developed path from the parking lot to the pueblo seems easy enough. After all, it’s paved and even. Imagine if you lived 1000 years ago, and were walking up from the fields in the valley by the river, carrying a heavy load of corn or deer meat.

 

Originally the rooms of Tuzigoot were two levels

 

3. Step Around

 

Walk the circumference of the pueblo, which was originally two stories high throughout and comprised 110 rooms. Get the feel for the walls of clay and rock. Think about how long it must have taken to bring all these building materials to the top of this hill. Imagine spending nights in those small rooms!

 

Historians estimate Tuzigoot comprised 77 ground floor rooms

Walk through second story rooms on the way to the roof

 

 

4. Step Up

 

Climb the steps up to the rooftop, the highest point on the remaining second level of the pueblo. Here you will find what may be your most significant memory of your visit to Tuzigoot – the view! You can learn about this vantage point from the visitor center brochure, “A View from the Roof.” Gaze down at the Tavasci Marsh and Verde River where you will see how the vegetation transforms from wetlands to desert.

Excellent panoramic views gained from Tuzigoot's highest point

 

 

5. Step Down

 

Finally, walk the Tavasci Marsh loop, a half-mile round trip. It’s possible to see some of the 167 species of birds here or even the occasional desert river otter among the cattails. Before Europeans arrived in the 15th century, the marsh, river and Peck’s Lake provided lush, almost tropical surroundings. The name, “Sinagua” is Spanish for “without water” and was coined in the 1920’s by Museum of Northern Arizona founder and archeologist Harold Colton. It almost seems like a misnomer since water was abundant. Perhaps the name was given as one theory to the group’s disappearance – maybe an extended period of drought? Other theories include: depletion of food sources, disease, conflicts with other cultures or spiritual reasons.

 

View of the "Citadel" from Tuzigoot Trail

 

 

6. Step Away

 

Whether you’re an Arizona newcomer, long-time resident or visitor, you’ll appreciate the step back in time with a visit to Tuzigoot National Monument.  You’ll leave the park with more knowledge about Arizona’s native cultures, natural history and most likely, a renewed appreciation for your modern existence.

Learn about the Sinagua at the visitor center