Cottonwood: Heart of the Verde Valley
Even though I was surrounded by chile strings, jars of gourmet products and colorful produce, my eyes were fixed at a very unique lamp.
The lamppost curviness didn’t resemble any type of wood I have seen before. I noticed there were ‘sculptures’ made of the same material.
Intrigued, I asked the tiny store attendant,
“What was used to create that lamp?”
“That is a Saguaro skeleton,” she answered.
I blurted a loud “What?” in disbelieve.
“Yes, it is actually illegal to take one of these skeletons from its natural setting. I got these pieces from one of the few people who are allowed to use them for artful purposes.”
After thinking for a few seconds, it makes sense that a skeleton is needed to maintain straight something as humongous as a Saguaro cactus (they can grow over 20 meter tall).
This may sound like a strange episode but I think it illustrates pretty well the topics you can develop in a place like Arizona. And, let me narrow it more, the fascinating conversations you can have with locals in a small town like Cottonwood.
This town of about 10,000 residents, located in the Verde Valley, is famous for its revitalized Old Town and its proximity to the Phoenix metropolitan area. It has won numerous awards including the Governor’s Tourism Award and the Arizona Commerce Authority Sustainable Economic Growth City of the Decade.
The beginnings of the town go back to 1874 when soldiers from Camp Verde were station in a house located within modern limits. The settlement took the name of sixteen cottonwoods growing close to the banks of the Verde River.
The official founding of the town is attributed to Charles D. Willard (1879). There was a boom in business due to the growth of agricultural products. Later, notoriety was gained because of the bootlegging business. It has been said that Cottonwood had the best liquor in miles, attracting people from as far as Los Angeles.
Nowadays, the days of lawfulness and illicit activities are gone. The more than 60 businesses located on Main Street attract visitors and support local residents.
The town is located between Sedona and Prescott in an area full of natural wonders, old ruins and state park. Opportunities to hike, golf or camp abound.
But not everything is about adventure and outdoor pursuits. You can enjoy the good life by visiting cafes, restaurants or wineries.
I know this small town has to “compete” with National Monuments, State Parks and places like Sedona. However, Cottonwood, in my opinion, is unique enough to deserve a visit. Also, if you are road tripping along Hwy 89A, this is a must stop.
What is more, I recommend small towns to those wanting to invest their dollars in local economies.
Here is peek of what you can find in Cottonwood:
Cafes and Restaurants
Wine Tasting Rooms
And tons of cool establishments!
- Cottonwood is located in northern Arizona only 130 miles from Phoenix, 40 miles from Flagstaff, 8 miles from Jerome, 50 miles from Prescott, 20 miles from Camp Verde, 16 miles from Sedona and about 2 miles from Clarkdale.
- There are hotels in town but you may decide to stay in Flagstaff (with a big selection of hotels and motels) or in Sedona.
- For more information about the area, visit the following page: http://cottonwoodchamberaz.org/pages/GuidetoCottonwood/
Do you enjoy small towns?
Update – 4/9/2015
This how the Saguaro Skeleton looks.
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