[Source: Verde New.com, Steve Ayers] – – If you pass through Canyon de Chelly or walk the banks of Beaver Creek beneath Montezuma Castle, you get an immediate and clear picture of why both are national monuments. Like most of the nation’s inventory, their unique natural and/or cultural qualities are on prominent display. But driving south from the Verde Valley on Interstate 17, looking east as you pass between Dugas Road and Sunset Point rest area, the landscape does not immediately lend itself to either of those prerequisites.
Nevertheless, what you would see out the driver’s side is the Agua Fria National Monument — 71,000 acres spread across a high mesa, split down the middle by the upper Agua Fria River canyon. It is a noticeably barren and often windswept tract of low-lying hills and volcanic grasslands that, at first glance, lack any redeeming value. But don’t be fooled by the cover. The Agua Fria National Monument is worth a closer look. [Note: to read the full article, click here.]