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Upper Cliff Dwellings at Tonto National Monument. Normally open only for special tours, the Upper Ruins overlook Roosevelt Lake. For reasons that remain mysterious, people started in the 1200s to abandon villages along the Salt River and moved to this lofty fortress.

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Tonto National Monument -- ruins lure photographers

Mother-daught jaunt leads to upper ruins

“Mom, isn’t this cool?” asked my daughter, Brooke, as she snapped away at the shapes created by the shadows and angles of the architecture. Usually, the best light for outdoor photos is either at dawn or dusk, but it took us two hours of hiking to make it to the top of the Upper Dwelling of the Tonto National Monument and dawn had faded into day hours ago.

Tease photo

Ancient mysteries in modern light

Photographers savor a rare chance to explore Upper Ruins

Mystery. Light. History. Angles. Breathtaking views. All await discovery among the 700-year-old Upper Cliff Ruins of the Tonto National Monument. Normally, the national park requires reservations for tours up the rustic three-mile, round-trip trail — and that is only from November to April. Guests may take a guided tour, photo walk or full-moon hike to the top.

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