Steve had phoned earlier to reserve a spot for the Upper Dwelling Tour but was told they were fully booked, so shortly after 9:00, we headed off in hopes of a cancellation for the 10:00 guided tour. We were in luck! The Upper Cliff Dwelling hike is 3 miles round-trip and gains 600 feet in elevation.
Tonto National Monument contains of the ruins of two cliff dwellings established by the Salado Indians around 1300 AD. The southeast-facing settlements were built quite high up a steep hillside within well-protected natural caves overlooking the Tonto Basin, which is now flooded forming Theodore Roosevelt Lake, though originally the Salt River flowed through the basin which was therefore well irrigated and fertile. As with many other ancient peoples of the Southwest, the Salado appear to have abandoned their villages suddenly, early in the fifteenth century, for reasons which are not known.
Here we are following a stream bed that flows year round and in some spots from underground. A lot closer for the Salado people than the Salt River down below. Our guide said it's been estimated that it takes around 800 years for the rain water to cycle through the mountains and that the Visitor Center uses it for it's water source.
metate and the rounded ones are called a mano, used for grinding corn...
It only took us about a half hour and we were back at the Visitor Center. After a brief rest, it was time to conquer the trail up to the Lower Cliff Dwellings.
The Lower Ruin is reached by a paved, half mile, self-guided trail which leads from the visitor center/museum quite steeply 350 feet up the side of a rocky hill, giving increasingly good views of Tonto Basin and Theodore Roosevelt Lake.
construction sequence of the Lower Cliff Dwelling gives details about how and in what order the rooms were built.
While we were gone, Deb captured a picture of this fellow walking through the campground...a coyote that looks as big as Freya!