In 1865, the U.S. Army established Camp Lincoln, later called Camp Verde and Fort Verde. There were no fortified walls at Fort Verde since the Yavapais and Apaches never attacked any of the 43 forts in the Arizona territory.
Fort Verde State Park's museum is surrounded by a picket fence. The historic outpost with worn wooden floors tells the stories of central Arizona's Indian wars. Artifacts include a bugle found in 1878 on the Little Bighorn battlefield. Buglers played it in the Arizona territory until 1886.
Today, Camp Verde is home to a farming and ranching community with the Verde River and its irrigation canals keeping the valley appropriately green. Verde is Spanish for "green."
The Yavpapai-Apache Nation occupies the nearby Middle Verde community west of town and operates the Cliff Castle Casino with a bowling alley and other entertainment. In April 2017, it opened a six-story, 122-room hotel to add to its existing 80 rooms.
Montezuma Castle National Monument, Montezuma Well, Verde Valley Archaeology Center and Out of Africa Wildlife Park are among Camp Verde's other attractions. We recommend breakfast or lunch at Thanks A Latte Espresso Cafe in an old gas station on Main Street. Try the tasty breakfast burritos or a club sandwich.
If kitschy roadside distractions are your thing, Camp Verde claims it has the world's largest Kokopelli, a Navajo icon typically shown playing a flute. It's 32 feet tall and is located just east of Interstate 17 on State Route 260 (Exit 287) among tourist services.
We're anxious to try the craft beer at Verde Brewing Co., 724 Industrial Drive, northeast of I-17 and SR 260.
One footnote: Camp Verde boasts that the town is closest to the geographic center of Arizona.
Elevation: 3,160 feet