Monday, March 07, 2011

Mesa Verde National Park

There was much more to Mesa Verde National Park than either of us had expected. The vastness of it surprised us, as did the terrain. The mesa is huge and is not flat, as we had expected. There are canyons and valleys throughout. And those cliff dwellers seemed to have used every little nook and cranny to build homes and communities. They are believed to have occupied the area for about 700 years, from about 600 AD to about 1300 AD.

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

Cliff Palace

The walls of this canyon provided ample building sites for the cliff dwellers.

Cactus Flower

Square Tower House

Can you see the indentations in the cliff leading from the lower level to the upper level? It is believed that that "ladder" provided access between the two levels. There must have been a portable ladder used to get up to the indentations...maybe even ropes to help with the climb.

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.


  1. You really do get the most out of your trips. I think a lot of people like to skip over the history "educational" part. I really enjoy reading it though. Great photos, as always. Breath taking.

  2. Elizabeth - I confess that I'm often more interested in the sights than in the history, but it's hard to separate the two at Mesa Verde. :)

  3. A beautiful spot to visit.You found some lovely shots to share.

  4. Wow.. that's just fascinating. Just try to imagine making that ancient spot inhabitable. Wonderful pics, Linda.

  5. Steve - It IS beautiful there, and so interesting. Thanks for your comment.

    Hilary - It really IS fascinating. It's amazing to think that this civilization dated back 1400 years or so. Thanks for the compliment and for the help in getting the pictures onto the blog. :)

  6. Another fascinating post. You really are a good "tour guide". These are so interesting to see and read about. :)

  7. Thanks, Sandy. I wasn't really satisfied with the way this post read, and I was just thinking about doing some editing when your comment came in. Hmmm. To edit or not to edit at this late date. :)

  8. Well, I'm probably not the right one to offer advice on how old a post should be before it's off limits for editing, because I don't hold myself to any limit. If I read an old post and decide I could have said something better, I edit! But I thought this sounded fine. We always second guess ourselves, don't we. :)

  9. Sandra - I did go ahead and edit it a little. I just didn't think there was enough "me" in it. So I added a couple of paragraphs at the beginning of the post. Thanks for giving me permission, though. It's nice to know I'm not the only one. :)


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