mesa verde

Mesa Verde National Park is located in the southwestern part of Colorado. It’s famous for it’s cliff dwellings, built by the Ancestral Pueblos who lived in the cliff dwellings almost a thousand years ago.

spectacular drive into mesa verdeThe drive into the park is pretty epic, a winding road built into the side of a mesa.

the crazy geographyMesa Verde means Green Table in Spanish. It’s easy to see why. The Ancestral Pueblo natives built their houses into the sides of cliffs like this. You can sort of see one towards the right side of this image.

smaller cliff dwellingA closer view of the same cliff dwelling.

one of the largest cliff dwellingsOne of the larger cliff dwellings– I think this one is called Long House.

ranger led tour of one of the dwellingsThe park offers ranger guided tours of some of the cliff dwellings, but in the winter they are closed except for this one, the Spruce Tree House.

switchbacks to the cliff dwellingThe trail to the Spruce Tree House has many steep switchbacks built by the National Park Service. In ancient times though, the cliff dwellers used ropes and wooden ladders, along with toe holds carved into the cliff to access their house.

learning about the siteThe cliff dwellings were amazing up close, and the history of the area is pretty fascinating. There are several theories as to why the cliff dwellings were built, as well as theories why they were abruptly abandoned in the 1300’s, which the ranger presented.

2013-11-05 - mesa verdeThere were also round underground rooms, called kivas, which they speculate were used for religious ceremonies.

harsh environmentWith a name like Mesa Verde, you’d expect there to be a lot of green, but in truth a lot of the area at the top of the mesa was pretty barren. It seems like a pretty harsh environment to live in.

Usually I visit national parks for the amazing natural scenery. Mesa Verde was a bit different in that there isn’t any spectacular natural scenery– it exists solely because of the cliff dwellings. Apparently it’s the only cultural park in the national park system. It’s a bit remote, far from any major cities, but it was definitely worth the trip. I’d definitely recommend going sometime other than winter though, so that more of the cliff dwellings are accessible.

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