We were able to actually go into only one of the dwellings, one called Spruce House. There are three others available for paid tours led by Park Rangers, but we didn't want to be tied down to a schedule. Besides, it takes some pretty strenuous climbing to get to the sites. And one of them required a crawl through a 12-foot tunnel. No thanks! We were able to see plenty by taking short walks to scenic overlooks that we could reach by car.
"Mesa Verde" is Spanish for "green table." A mesa is an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs. It takes its name from its characteristic table-top shape.
Mesa Verde National Park is located in Southwestern Colorado, near the Four Corners of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. A couple of cowboys, looking for stray cattle, are reported to have discovered the abandoned cliff dwellings in 1888.
Despite subsequent decades of excavation and analysis, scientific knowledge of the lives of the Ancient Puebloans who made their homes here is still sketchy. No written records were left; and, with hundreds of years between the disappearance of the people from the mesa and the establishment of the National Park in 1906, much that was important in their lives has perished.
The mesa as viewed from the highway approaching it
|The park's Chapin Museum offers a number of interesting displays.|
|Spruce Tree House|
|The walls of this canyon provided ample building sites for the cliff dwellers.|
|Square Tower House|
|This is part of the Sun Temple, built on the top of the mesa.|
|The view from the top of the mesa|
|I don't know what these are, but they were too colorful to resist taking a photo.|