The Heart of Arizona Wine Country
Cottonwood began life as an alternative—and as a regional trading center. It was first an alternative to Camp Verde, which grew up around Fort Verde—the U.S. Army post utilized by General George Crook as a base of operations during the Apache Wars in the 1870s and 1880s. And, subsequently, as an alternative to the then company towns of Clarkdale, designed, built, and owned by William Andrews Clark as a smelter town and base of operations for his fabulously successful mining operations in Jerome, and Clemenceau (now part of Cottonwood), the smelter town for the Little Daisy Mine in Jerome owned by Jimmy Douglas. Located on the banks of the Verde River in the center of the Verde Valley, Cottonwood continues to capitalize on its central location to serve as the trading center for the entire region. Here you’ll find the ‘big box’ stores like Walmart and Home Depot that do not exist in Sedona, Jerome, Clarkdale, or Camp Verde. And you’ll also find what has become a significant destination in its own right, the revitalized Old Town Cottonwood.
Cottonwood’s business district had developed on Main Street, along the highway through town. The highway bypassed the area, as it happens with many towns. The area died and seemed forgotten. But thanks to the vision and dedicated effort of a growing number of people, including the City of Cottonwood, numerous business owners and entrepreneurs, and a strong regional collaborative effort, Old Town has come back strong! The buildings have been restored. The proliferation of wine tasting rooms, restaurants, art galleries, antique stores, and specialty shops have made this a vibrant, high energy, must-see part of any visit to the Sedona Verde Valley. Thanks to its long history and its reputation as the local bootlegging capital during prohibition, the entire Old Town Business District is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A major contributing factor to the district’s popularity has been the dramatic growth of the Verde Valley’s wine industry. There are now six winery tasting rooms in Old Town. Recognizing that fact and capitalizing on it, the City of Cottonwood has changed the slogan on their logo. It is now, “Cottonwood: The Heart of Arizona Wine Country.” Old Town continues to grow and add new shops and events. An excellent opportunity to visit and explore is offered by Old Town’s 2nd Saturday Art and Cultural Walk each month.
But, lest we forget, Cottonwood has also always been in the center of a wide array of unique places, events and attractions.
The 19th Annual Thunder Valley Rally will take place on the 20th and 21st of September and kicks off with a huge, opening ceremonial ride. Participating motorcycles ride into town with a police and fire department escort, starting in Camp Verde and arriving in Cottonwood early Friday afternoon. Riverfront Park will host the riders for camping, with vendors, and entertainment on the two main stages. Concert headliners this year will be .38 Special and Great White, with many other bands performing. Tickets are only $20 per person for the two-day event. To celebrate Cottonwood’s history as the regional bootlegging capital, visit the Old Town Bootleggers Bash. Hosted in Old Town Activity Park on Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., the Bash showcases local bands, hooch, brews, wine, restaurants, and merchants. For more information, go to ThunderValleyRallyAZ.com.
To learn more about the Verde River, come to Dead Horse Ranch State Park on the banks of the river for Verde River Day 2019 on September 28th. This annual event promotes preservation and care of the environment with a wide array of informative exhibits on the river’s unique riparian habitat. It’s a free all-day fun event with snacks and fishing, too, for largemouth bass, rainbow trout, channel catfish, bluegill, green sunfish, and an occasional crappie.
Cottonwood’s 10th Annual Walkin’ On Main celebration will take place on Saturday, November 9th this year. The town shuts down traffic through the heart of Old Town and stages a full-fledged, old fashioned street fair! A great blending of small-town fun and modern sophistication, this celebration features art exhibits, an outdoor wine garden focusing on top regional wines conducted by the Verde Valley Wine Consortium, a fabulous car show, and live music concerts from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. This free event is fun for the entire family. Tickets are required for the wine tasting.
The first weekend in December provides a kickoff to the holiday season, with a VIP Chocolate Walk & Wine Tasting on Friday, December 6th and followed by the always spectacular Cottonwood Christmas Parade and the Old Town Chocolate Walk on Saturday, December 7th.
Tuzigoot National Monument should be another not-to-be-missed stop on your trip. Tuzigoot crowns a ridge above the Verde River between Cottonwood and Clarkdale. Constructed by the Southern Sinagua between 1100 and 1400 AD, this ancient pueblo—one of the larger of the fifty or so pueblos in the area dating to that time—remains one of the best-preserved. The pueblo contains 110 rooms, including some second and third story structures. Early construction began about 1000 AD. The Sinagua came from the north replacing the Hohokam peoples who preceded them in the area as they moved to the south to join their trading partners around Phoenix. Both were agricultural societies who took advantage of the year-round flow of the Verde River and constructed numerous irrigation ditches to take care of their crops. The view from the top of the pueblo is well worth the easy walk up the trail. The visitor’s center was redone a few years ago and features many striking examples of pottery and other artifacts from the pueblo. Tuzigoot is an Apache term meaning “crooked water” and refers to a nearby bend in the Verde River. It was named a National Monument in 1939 by President Roosevelt.