Believe it or not, the Sedona Arizona area was once a vast tidal coast flat. This was 300 million years ago, before the Rocky Mountains existed and when all of Earth’s continents were aligned as one super continent known as Pangaea. At that time — in what is now present day Colorado — a giant mountain range existed known as “The Ancient Rockies.”
Over millions of years these mountains eroded and flowed to the ocean creating sediment deposits rich in iron. It’s that iron, now exposed to oxygen and rusting, that makes Sedona’s rocks so red. This same sediment deposit can be seen in the red rocks at the Grand Canyon and around the town of Moab, Utah.
The first human inhabitants of the Sedona area were the Anasazi who settled the area roughly 1,200 years ago. Their name simply means “the old ones.” The Anasazi built stone and mud cliff dwellings throughout the area. They were expert toolmakers, crafting arrowheads, axes, pottery, and even children’s toys.
Their rock paintings and settlements can be found throughout the Sedona area. About 500 years ago these people vanished, and no one is completely sure why. Some believe famine, war, or disease. What’s most likely, however, is that they simply overtaxed their resources and moved on.
The first white settlers came to the area in the late 1800s. They found sophisticated irrigation systems for farming in Oak Creek Canyon. The Apache Indians had most recently used these farms before they were relocated into the United States reservation system. The white settlers came to Sedona in response to The Homestead Act signed into law by Abraham Lincoln.
This law allowed settlers to stake claim to 160-acre plots of land. The first tourists arrived in Sedona around 1900 led by the guide T. C. Schnebly who was married to a young woman from Missouri by the name of Sedona. T.C. applied to be the area’s first postmaster in 1902 and named the town after his wife.
The next few decades of Sedona history were times of cattle ranches and apple orchards. But the bucolic life wouldn’t remain for long because the beauty of the red rocks was too hard a secret to keep. In the 1940s Hollywood came to town and the golden age of Sedona cinema was underway. In all about 100 movies have been filmed underneath the towering red rocks.
Some of the standouts:
- 1946 - Angel and the Badman starring John Wayne
- 1948 - Blood on the Moon starring Rock Hudson
- 1965 - The Rounders starring Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda
- 1967 - Stay Away, Joe starring Elvis Presley
Sedona has come a long way. A lot of the construction you see in town was built during the 1980s when the area was experiencing rapid growth. In 1988, Sedona was incorporated as a city. Despite the popularity Sedona has hung on to it’s small town roots, which is illustrated by the fact that the planning and zoning commission forced McDonald’s to change its golden arches to a less obtrusive teal — the only such arches in the world. Today, Sedona Arizona is one of the premier towns in the Western United States for outdoor enthusiasts as well as shopping.
To see the wide range of activities Sedona has to offer check out SRL’s Adventures page.