Tuesday, December 26, 2017 (High Chaparral RV Park, Casa Grande AZ)

Today we thought we'd do a little sightseeing. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is about a half hour away, so just before 10:00 we headed off. As we were driving, we saw this plane...we think he was practising "crop dusting" as we didn't see any spray...
The entrance to the Ruins...just outside the community of Coolidge...
The visitors center....

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument contains an imposing 4-storey building dating from the late Hohokam period, probably 14th century and contemporary with other well preserved ruins in Arizona such as the Tonto and Montezuma Castle monuments. It is situated in the flat plain of central Arizona in between the Gila and Santa Cruz rivers, just north of Coolidge and about 15 miles from the larger town of Casa Grande. The structure was once part of a collection of settlements scattered along the Gila River and linked by a network of irrigation canals. The area has a low elevation and hence is very hot - often over 110°F for several months in the summer. During spring, this part of Arizona is sometimes the hottest place in the whole USA, and even in winter, daytime temperatures can reach 80°F.

The entrance fee is $5 (but is doubling to $10 on January 1, 2018)...we used our National Parks Pass so didn't have to pay. We were just in time for a short movie, so made our way through the display area, to the theatre. After the movie, we decided to take the free tour...led by a very knowledgeable park volunteer. It always amazes me the amount of information they enthusiastically share! We learned that they carried logs used in the 4 floor structure 60 miles by hand...amazing!

While you are seated for the introduction the guide will explain the history of the ruins, the archeology, and the Hohokam Culture. Your guide, either ranger or trained volunteer, will then lead the tour into Compound A and point out interesting features. You may enter or leave the tour at any point, or you may chose to visit the park on a self-guided tour. There are signs and exhibits to enhance your visit with volunteers and staff eager to hear your stories and discuss your questions.

The 'Great House' can be seen from some distance away owing to the flatness of the terrain, and has a rather curious appearance from afar as the structure is protected from the harsh desert sun by a large metal roof supported by four great pillars, designed by architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. This is an impressive design, and is certainly necessary to help preserve the building but it is still rather incongruous. The present cover replaced an earlier wooden construction in 1932. The scale of the ruin is best appreciated from close up - it is 60 feet by 40 feet wide at the base and has caliche walls over a meter thick. Although visitors are not allowed into the building owing to its delicate state, much can be seen from outside including details of the construction with wooden beams supporting the clay walls, and various internal features such as stairways and windows. However, besides the protective canopy, the interior contains other modern items such as re-enforcing beams, metal ladders and measuring devices on the walls, all contributing to the slightly unnatural scene.

Our guide took us for a walk around the "Great House". At this point, he asked for some help and asked me (the disadvantage of standing close)...he was going to recite a poem that ends with a ghostly "Whoo Hooo"...and that was my job. Too funny!

The tour concluded after the poem and everyone was free to continue walking the grounds.

With such a large crowd it took awhile to take photos. The pictures are in no particular order as we wandered around the compound trying to avoid others...

It is believed that the Casa Grande functioned partly as an astronomical observatory since the four walls face the points of the compass, and some of the windows are aligned to the positions of the sun and moon at specific times. See the holes on both sides of the ruins?

Looking inside the doorway...

Looking inside the doorway on the other side of the building...

There is a pigeon perched in the opening...


Once we had seen enough outside, it was time to go through the displays inside the visitors center...

Describes the items in the photo below it...

There are many compounds in the area but the one we toured is the only one available to view...
That was very interesting! As we were leaving, the Ranger said there was a picnic area on the other side of the parking lot with a viewing platform of other ruins in the area.

Every society needs public places to gather. Here the ball court, platform mounds, and the Casa Grande all served as community centers for the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People—but at different times. Archeologists see clues that once the platform mounds to your right were built, people suddenly abandoned this ball court. Then when the Casa Grande was built, around 100–150 years after the platform mounds, it became the center of the community.

Over 2 hours later, we were finished exploring the area. Very well worth seeing...highly recommend seeing it if you are in the area!


  1. We enjoyed touring those ruins as well. Great pics.

  2. An interesting site and one for our list. I agree with your comment on the knowledge of the staff. Very knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

  3. No owls!? Darn! There are two resident Great Horned Owls and when we visited a couple years ago, there was a third owl that moved in. After our visit there were two owlets born. This is a neat ruin. Glad they are protecting it.

    1. Our tour guide did tell us about the Owls however they weren't visible. All we saw were pigeons.

  4. We have been in that area quite a few times and never bothered to tour the ruins, glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for all the great photos.

    1. Now you have a goal the next time you're in the area. 🙂