A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde National Park is one of the most interesting parks I’ve visited to date. It is the first national park of its kind, established by Theodore Roosevelt, to ‘preserve the works of man’. Ancestral Puebloans lived in this area approximately 550-1300 AD. There are over 4,000 cliff dwellings and mesa top sites in this park. Incredible. The video shown at the Visitors Center was chock full of interesting information on the life and times of the cliff dwellers.
After driving the windy roads in the park, we made a short stop at the first Visitors Center before beginning out tour of Cliff Palace. It is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. The palace contains 150 rooms, 23 kivas (ceremonial rooms) and was probably home to 100 people. According to the national park’s website, 75% of the dwellings within the park have between one to five rooms, so Cliff Palace was substantially larger. Most of the walls were painted during its heyday, but weather and time have taken their toll.
As we walked through Cliff Palace and stood in wonderment at how difficult it must have been to build in this area, our guide filled us in on daily life here. Obviously, the people had to get food somehow. An initial assessment yields no easy way to get up to the mesa top. And while not easy, it turns out that they made hand and foot indentations in the rock to climb up.
It was fun to stop at different overlooks in the park to see how many cliff dwellings you could spot.
After torrential rain the night before and that morning, the weather cleared for us to explore the park. Mesa Verde is located in southwest Colorado near Four Corners and is also worth putting on a road trip itinerary if you’re heading to southern Utah.
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