Tonto National Monument

Tontao National Monument protects masonry ruins nearly 700 years old. These shallow caves overlook the Tonto Basin in southeastern Arizona. This area was home to the prehistoric Salado people, named in the early 20th century after the life-giving Rio Salado, or Salt River. 

The Salado lived in the Tonto Basin for about 300 years. Sometime between 1,400 and 1,450 they left. No one knows why, though the Salado were not the only ones to depart their homelands in the southern mountains of the Southwest around this time. The cliff dwellings, less than 150 years old, were abandoned to the sun and wind. 

Archeological study continues to reveal aspects of the Salado culture. Even so, we have only a vague notion of who the Salado were. They left no written record of the existence, no chronology of events that shaped their society. The most vivid signs of life are in their pottery, in remnants of fabric, in smoke stains from their cook fires, and in handprints on pueblo walls—all reminders that humans once led rich and productive lives here by the Salt River.

Distance and rugged terrain isolated the cliff dwellings from the modern world until the mid-1870s, when ranchers and soldiers came to the Tonto Basin.  In 1906 construction began on Roosevelt Dam, bringing increased attention to the ruins. The following year, in 1907, recognizing the need to protect the sites from vandals and pothunters, President Theodore Roosevelt set the area aside as a national monument.

Tonto National Monument







Carsten Arnold

January 10, 2012

The Tonto National Monument is the Tour of the Day on for January 10, 2012. I photographed this 360 x 180 degree virtual tour last September. Here's the permanent link: Enjoy. Carsten Arnold total360 Photography

Post a Comment

Share your park story today. Post your park experiences, recommendations, or tips here.*

Enter this word:

* Your comments will appear once approved by the moderator. NPCA staff do not regularly respond to postings. We reserve the right to remove comments that include profanity or personal attacks, promote products or services, or are otherwise off-topic. Opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the position(s) of NPCA. By submitting comments you are giving NPCA permission to reuse your words on our website and print materials.


Want to learn more about the  ?

The   can be seen in the wild in America’s national parks. Why not join the National Parks Conservation Association community to protect and preserve our national parks?

Sign up to protect parks in   & other states

Why not join the National Parks Conservation Association Community to protect and preserve our national parks?

Sign up to protect   and other National Parks

Why not join the National Parks Conservation Association Community to protect and preserve our national parks?

Please leave this field empty
Yes, please sign me up for NPCA’s newsletter and other emails about protecting our national parks!

National Parks Conservation Association
National Parks Conservation Association

Log In

Or log in with your connected Facebook or Twitter account:


Welcome to our growing community of park advocates. Thanks for signing up!

Sign Up:

Or sign up by connecting your Facebook or Twitter account: