Tonto National Monument

Last updated
Tonto National Monument
Tonto National Monument 02.jpg
Lower Cliff Dwelling
USA Arizona location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Usa edcp relief location map.png
Red pog.svg
Location Gila County, Arizona, USA
Nearest city Globe, Arizona
Coordinates 33°39′25″N111°5′40″W / 33.65694°N 111.09444°W / 33.65694; -111.09444 Coordinates: 33°39′25″N111°5′40″W / 33.65694°N 111.09444°W / 33.65694; -111.09444
Area1,120 acres (4.5 km2) [1]
CreatedOctober 21, 1907 (1907-October-21)
Visitors39,822(in 2018) [2]
Governing body National Park Service
Website Tonto National Monument
Salado Polychrome pottery from Tonto National Monument Salado pottery, Tonto NM.jpg
Salado Polychrome pottery from Tonto National Monument

Tonto National Monument is a National Monument in the Superstition Mountains, in Gila County of central Arizona. The area lies on the northeastern edge of the Sonoran Desert ecoregion, an arid habitat with annual rainfall of about 16 inches (400 mm) here. [3] The Salt River runs through this area, providing a rare, year-round source of water.


Cliff dwellings

Well-preserved cliff dwellings were occupied by the Salado culture during the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries. The people farmed in the Salt River Valley, and supplemented their diet by hunting and gathering native plants. The Salado were fine craftspeople, producing some of the most flamboyant polychrome pottery and intricately woven textiles to be found in the Southwest. Some of the artifacts excavated nearby are on display in the visitor center museum.

The Tonto National Monument Archeological District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. [4] Tonto National Monument, Lower Ruin and Tonto National Monument, Upper Ruin are archeological sites that were NRHP-listed in 1989. [4] [lower-alpha 1]

Natural history

The National Monument is surrounded by the Tonto National Forest, which includes low plains, desert scrubland, and alpine pine forests.

The Upper Sonoran ecosystem is known for its characteristic saguaro cacti. Other common plants include: cholla, prickly pear, hedgehog, and barrel cactus (flowering from April to June); yucca, sotol, and agave; creosote bush and ocotillo; palo verde and mesquite trees; an amazing variety of colorful wild flowers in good years (February to March); and a lush riparian area which supports large Arizona Walnut, Arizona Sycamore, and hackberry trees.

It also serves as a home for native animals such as whitetail and mule deer, mountain lion, bobcat, three rattlesnake species and many more.

Wilderness areas

The area around Tonto National Monument also includes several designated National Wilderness Areas, including Four Peaks, Superstition, and Salome Wilderness Areas.

Lower cliff dwelling looking south Tonto National Monument 5.jpg
Lower cliff dwelling looking south
Tonto National Monument looking southwest Tonto National Monument AZ USA 6.jpg
Tonto National Monument looking southwest
View of Tonto National Monument looking southwest Tonto National Monument 4.jpg
View of Tonto National Monument looking southwest
View of Tonto National Monument Tonto National Monument Arizona 2.jpg
View of Tonto National Monument
View of Tonto National Monument looking toward Roosevelt Lake Tonto National Monument Arizona USA 1.jpg
View of Tonto National Monument looking toward Roosevelt Lake


  1. All three NRHP-listed areas are included within the National Monument, but the National Monument itself is not NRHP-listed

Related Research Articles

Wupatki National Monument

The Wupatki National Monument is a United States National Monument located in north-central Arizona, near Flagstaff. Rich in Native American archaeological sites, the monument is administered by the National Park Service in close conjunction with the nearby Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. Wupatki was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. The listing included three contributing buildings and 29 contributing structures on 35,253.2 acres (14,266.5 ha).

Salt River (Arizona)

The Salt River is a river in Gila and Maricopa counties in Arizona, United States, that is the largest tributary of the Gila River. The river is about 200 miles (320 km) long. Its drainage basin is about 13,700 square miles (35,000 km2) large. The longest of the Salt River's many tributaries is the 195-mile (314 km) Verde River. The Salt's headwaters tributaries, the Black River and East Fork, increase the river's total length to about 300 miles (480 km). The name Salt River comes from the fact that the river flows over large salt deposits shortly after the merging of the White and Black Rivers.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area U.S. protected area in Nevada and Arizona

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a U.S. National Recreation Area located in southeastern Nevada and northwestern Arizona. Operated by the National Park Service, Lake Mead NRA follows the Colorado River corridor from the westernmost boundary of Grand Canyon National Park to just north of the cities of Laughlin, Nevada and Bullhead City, Arizona. It includes all of the eponymous Lake Mead as well as the smaller Lake Mohave – reservoirs on the river created by Hoover Dam and Davis Dam, respectively – and the surrounding desert terrain and wilderness.

Tonto National Forest

The Tonto National Forest, encompassing 2,873,200 acres, is the largest of the six national forests in Arizona and is the fifth largest national forest in the United States. The forest has diverse scenery, with elevations ranging from 1,400 feet in the Sonoran Desert to 7,400 feet in the ponderosa pine forests of the Mogollon Rim. The Tonto National Forest is also the most visited "urban" forest in the United States.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument United States historic place

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is a U.S. National Monument created to protect Mogollon cliff dwellings in the Gila Wilderness on the headwaters of the Gila River in southwest New Mexico. The 533-acre (2.16 km2) national monument was established by President Theodore Roosevelt through executive proclamation on November 16, 1907. It is located in the extreme southern portion of Catron County. Visitors can access the Monument by traveling northbound from Silver City, New Mexico approximately 37 miles on NM 15.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, in Coolidge, Arizona, just northeast of the city of Casa Grande, preserves a group of Hohokam structures dating to the Classic Period.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a U.S. national monument and UNESCO biosphere reserve located in extreme southern Arizona that shares a border with the Mexican state of Sonora. The park is the only place in the United States where the organ pipe cactus grows wild. Along with organ pipe, many other types of cacti and other desert flora native to the Yuma Desert section of the Sonoran Desert region grow in the park. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is 517 sq mi (1,340 km2) in size. In 1976 the monument was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, and in 1977 95% of Organ Pipe Cactus was declared a wilderness area.

Walnut Canyon National Monument

Walnut Canyon National Monument is a United States National Monument located about 10 mi (16 km) southeast of downtown Flagstaff, Arizona, near Interstate 40. The canyon rim elevation is 6,690 ft (2,040 m); the canyon's floor is 350 ft lower. A 0.9 mi (1.4 km) long loop trail descends 185 ft (56 m) into the canyon passing 25 cliff dwelling rooms constructed by the Sinagua, a pre-Columbian cultural group that lived in Walnut Canyon from about 1100 to 1250 AD. Other contemporary habitations of the Sinagua people are preserved in the nearby Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle national monuments.

Navajo National Monument

Navajo National Monument is a National Monument located within the northwest portion of the Navajo Nation territory in northern Arizona, which was established to preserve three well-preserved cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloan People: Keet Seel, Betatakin, and Inscription House. The monument is high on the Shonto plateau, overlooking the Tsegi Canyon system, west of Kayenta, Arizona. It features a visitor center with a museum, two short self-guided mesa top trails, two small campgrounds, and a picnic area. Rangers guide visitors on free tours of the Keet Seel and Betatakin cliff dwellings. The Inscription House site, further west, has been closed to public access for many years.

Tumacácori National Historical Park United States historic place

Tumacácori National Historical Park is located in the upper Santa Cruz River Valley in Santa Cruz County, southern Arizona. The park consists of 360 acres (1.5 km2) in three separate units. The park protects the ruins of three Spanish mission communities, two of which are National Historic Landmark sites. It also contains the landmark 1937 Tumacácori Museum building, also a National Historic Landmark.

Sierra Ancha

The Sierra Ancha is a mountain range in Gila County, in central Arizona. It lies between Roosevelt Lake to the south, the Tonto Basin to the west, Cherry Creek to the east, and Pleasant Valley to the north. The range is one of several, including the Bradshaw Mountains, Mingus Mountain of the Black Hills, and the Mazatzal Mountains, which form a transitional zone between the lowland deserts of southern Arizona and the Colorado Plateau of northeastern Arizona. The highest point in the range is Aztec Peak, at an elevation of 2345 m (7694 ft).

Tonto National Monument Archeological District United States historic place

Tonto National Monument Archeological District is a historic district containing archeological sites within Tonto National Monument in Arizona.

Pueblo Grande Ruin and Irrigation Sites Archaeological park

Pueblo Grande Ruin and Irrigation Sites are pre-Columbian archaeological sites and ruins, located in Phoenix, Arizona. They include a prehistoric platform mound and irrigation canals. The City of Phoenix manages these resources as the Pueblo Grande Museum Archaeological Park.

Tonto Creek

Tonto Creek is a 72.5-mile-long (116.7 km) stream located in the Mogollon Rim area of the state of Arizona on the north edge of the Tonto National Forest. The closest town, Payson, is 18 miles (29 km) away. Tonto Creek is a stream that flows year round, starting just below the Mogollon Rim, at the northern edge of Tonto National Forest. The creek continues its descent through the Hellsgate Wilderness area and eventually into a wide valley in the Sonoran Desert. It continues through the desert and into the Salt River within the north end of Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The facilities are maintained by Tonto National Forest division of the USDA Forest Service.

Bates Well Ranch United States historic place

The Bates Well Ranch, also known as the Bates Well, Growler Well, Gray Ranch and El Veit, was one of the fifteen ranches and line camps in the Gray family cattle business in the Sonoran Desert country north of the US-Mexico border in Pima County, Arizona. Operating for nearly 60 years, the ranch is now part of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

The Sierra Ancha Wilderness The Sierra Ancha Wilderness is located about 100 miles east of Phoenix, between Globe and Young. Though fairly small at 32 square miles, it contains some of the most rugged and inaccessible terrain in Arizona. Most of the Sierra Ancha Wilderness lies at an elevation of about 7000 feet. But along the eastern border,is a 20,850 acres (8,440 ha) U.S. wilderness area on the Tonto National Forest in the state of Arizona. The terrain varies from box canyons to high cliffs and pine-covered mountains. Elevations range from lows of about 4,000 feet (1,200 m) to a high of 7,733 feet (2,357 m) at Aztec Peak. It is one of two wilderness areas within the Sierra Ancha mountain range.

Salado culture Culture of the people of the Salt River area of Arizona

Salado culture, or Salado Horizon, was a human culture in the upper Salt River of the Tonto Basin in southeastern Arizona from approximately 1150 CE through the 15th century.

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument preserves a 2- to 3-story pueblo ruin on the summit of a limestone and sandstone ridge just east of Clarkdale, Arizona, 120 feet above the Verde River floodplain. The Tuzigoot Site is an elongated complex of stone masonry rooms that were built along the spine of a natural outcrop in the Verde Valley. The central rooms stand higher than the others and they appear to have served public functions. The pueblo has 110 rooms. The National Park Service currently administers 58 acres, within an authorized boundary of 834 acres.

Besh-Ba-Gowah United States historic place

Besh-Ba-Gowah is a 200-room prehistoric Salado masonry pueblo located atop a broad ridge overlooking Pinal Creek. The site is situated one mile southwest from Globe, Arizona and surrounded by a small city park and adjacent museum with excavated items including prehistoric pottery, stone and woven artifacts. The site is operated by the city as Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum.

Sears-Kay Ruin United States historic place

The Sears-Kay Ruin are the remains of what once was a fortification of the Hohokam culture. The ruins are located in the area of the Tonto National Forest just outside of the town of Carefree, Arizona. On November 24, 1995, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


  1. "Listing of acreage as of December 31, 2011". Land Resource Division, National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
  2. "NPS Annual Recreation Visits Report". National Park Service. Retrieved 2019-06-15.
  3. Roosevelt 1 WNW, Arizona - Climate Summary. Western Regional Climate Center.
  4. 1 2 "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. March 13, 2009.