Two well-preserved cliff dwellings constructed by the prehistoric Salado overlook the blue waters of Roosevelt Lake. The Salado lived in this part of the Salt River Valley about A.D. 1150-1450. Skillful farmers, they dug irrigation canals to water their corn, squash, beans, grain amaranth, and cotton. They also roamed the desert hills for cactus fruits, mesquite beans, deer, pronghorn, and many other wild foods. Crafts included beautiful polychrome pottery and intricately woven cotton cloth.
At first they built small, scattered pueblos along the river, but about A.D. 1250 some Salado began living on more defensible ridgetops. From A.D.1300 until their departure soon after A.D. 1400, part of the population moved into caves like those in the monument.
Exhibits (HC 02, Box 4602, Roosevelt, AZ 85545, 928/467-2241, www.nps.gov/tont, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily except Christmas, $3/person age 16 and up) illustrate how the Salado lived and what we know of their history. Stone tools, pottery, cotton cloth, and other artifacts reveal their artistic talents. You can watch a video introduction and shop for books and maps. A nature trail near the visitor center identifies desert plants. The visitor center is south one mile off AZ 188, 1.8 miles southeast of Roosevelt and 24 miles northwest of Globe. A picnic area with water is on the left, halfway in from the highway to the visitor center. If you're driving the Apache Trail Loop, this is the halfway point in time; Apache Junction is about three hours away.
The self-guided trail on the hillside above and behind the visitor center leads up to the Lower Cliff Dwelling. Originally the cave contained 19 rooms, with another 12 in the annex outside, but those exposed to the weather have worn away. Allow one hour for the trip, on which you'll climb 350 feet on a paved path; the trail closes at 4 p.m.
The Upper Cliff Dwelling, reached by a different trail, is about twice the size of the Lower, but it's farther away and requires advance planning. You can visit the Upper Cliff Dwelling only on ranger-guided tours, which are conducted Nov.-April; call or write to check on days and times. The free tours last about three hours and involve a three-mile roundtrip hike with an elevation gain of 600 feet.
On to Globe