We headed south on Highway 17 on Sunday, October 15, 2017, the 22nd day of our fall tour. We transitioned onto scenic Highway 89A through Sedona and on toward Prescott, Arizona. We wanted to stop in Sedona and see what the town had to offer, but there was too much traffic, vehicles and pedestrians, and no place to park.
Along the way we saw signs advertising Montezuma Castle National Monument, so we detoured east on Highway 260 to Camp Verde, Arizona, to take a look.
Montezuma Castle National Monument
Montezuma Castle is one of three national monuments in the Verde Valley that protect and interpret the legacy of the Sinagua culture. Although it is a small monument, it contains well-preserved cliff-dwellings. A paved trail meanders through a forest of Arizona Sycamore and Walnut trees with an undergrowth of creosote bush, velvet mesquite, catclaw mimosa, and soaptree yucca, to name a few.
Along with Montezuma Castle, Montezuma Well—a natural oasis—and Tuzigoot—an excavated ancestral village—depicts a farming life in the valley some 1,000 years ago. Unfortunately, we were only able to see Montezuma Castle and had to add the well and Tuzigoot to our list of places to visit during a future trip.
Highway 17 would have taken us to Prescott, but we wanted to go through Jerome, Arizona. Jon remembered steep cliffs without safety railings along the road through Jerome, so I braced for a white-knuckle ride. I’ve seen cities built on hills before, but nothing to the degree of how Jerome is situated. Billboards mentioned RV parking, but with so many vehicles around, it was clear there was no spot for our truck and 30’ fifth wheel. We continued on along the narrow street, navigating hairpin turn after hairpin turn until we stopped at a vista point to calm our nerves.
Point of Rocks RV Park and Watson Lake
As advertised, Point of Rocks RV Park in Prescott, Arizona, was a short walk to Watson Lake where we had our first views of the Granite Dells.
The lake, one of two, was created by the Chino Valley Irrigation District in the early 1900s. Today the City of Prescott owns the lake and has preserved it and the surrounding area for recreational purposes. Visitors enjoy fishing and kayaking at the lake and birding, hiking, and rock climbing along the 4.6-mile trail that surrounds the water.
Besides the available outdoor activities around Prescott, we found the preservation of historic buildings and the Sharlot Hall Museum of interest.
Historic Downtown Prescott and Whiskey Row
We stopped in at the Tourist Center and grabbed a pamphlet that detailed the location of the buildings built over 100 years ago.
The Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza is at the center of the historic district which encompasses a 17-acre area that includes 26 contributing buildings in its designation on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Whiskey Row, across from the courthouse, is where a total of 40 saloons once occupied the commercial space when the street was rebuilt after the 1900 fire destroyed four blocks of businesses.
The Palace Restaurant and Saloon, originally established in 1877, is considered the oldest frontier saloon in Arizona. The Palace lists Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp, and Doc Holliday as patrons in the late 1870s. The 1880s Brunswick Bar is still in use, having been carried to safety across the street by patrons before the 1900 fire destroyed the building.
A gentleman costumed in old western attire greets customers as they enter the bar and escorts them to a dining table. After we enjoyed our meal and an Arizona Sunrise Margarita, we took time to walk around the restaurant to check out the memorabilia and photos that line the walls.
Here’s a sample of other buildings around the square.
Sharlot Hall Museum
I never heard of Sharlot Hall before, but I’m glad I met her while visiting the Sharlot Hall Museum. She is truly a woman to admire.
Sharlot moved to the Prescott area with her parents and brother in 1882 at the age of 12. She saw the need to collect and protect Native American and pioneer artifacts early on and planned to develop a museum for her collections.
She lived at her father’s Orchard Ranch until 1927 when she moved her collection of artifacts and documents into the Old Governor’s Mansion. She opened the museum one year later. A journalist, poet, and essayist, she served as the territorial historian from September 1909 to February 1912 and lobbied against a bill that would have combined New Mexico and Arizona territories into one state.
Working with the Civil Works Administration during the 1930s, the Sharlot Hall Museum building was built. After her death in 1943, the entire complex officially became The Sharlot Hall Museum. In 1981 she became one of the first women elected to the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame. Today the museum consists of ten exhibit buildings, four of which have been historically restored.
The museum operates daily from October through May, conducts four annual festivals, and offers living history events. We enjoyed our visit to the museum and highly recommend it for anyone interested in Native American and pioneer history of the old west.
Of all the places we have visited over the past two years, Prescott has to be one of my favorites. With plenty of outdoor activities, museums, and dedication to historical preservation, it is a place I would like to stay for more than three or four nights. I’m sure we will return soon.
Coming up next are a few stops in California.