Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mesa Verde National Park


Last autumn, my husband and I drove to a family wedding in the Phoenix, Arizona area. We wanted to drive, instead of fly, in order to see more of this beautiful area of country.  One of the places we stopped to see on our two day drive to Arizona was Mesa Verde National Park.  The park is located in southwestern Colorado, midway between the towns of Cortez and Mancos, off US 160. From the highway to the park headquarters it is 21 scenic miles -- about a 45 minute drive.

Mesa Verde means "green table" in Spanish, named after the forest that covered the mesa. The Mesa Verde National Park offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States. (All photos will enlarge for easier viewing if clicked on)


About 15 miles from the highway is the Far View Visitor Center. The visitor and research center opened in mid December of 2012 and replaced the old facility. It houses a state of the art research center and is a storage facility for the park's archives and museum collection of over three million objects. It also features exhibits that focus on the contemporary American Indian cultures in the Four Corners area. The visitor center is also the area to pay the park entrance fee and buy tickets to enter some of the cliff houses on a ranger led tour.




After stopping at the visitors center to see the exhibits, we began our drive up to the top of the mesa, at an elevation of 7,000 to 7,500 feet.


The views along the long drive up were magnificent!  The park recommends at least a 6 hour visit to see all of its features. We were arriving in late afternoon, so we knew we would have to condense our visit as much as possible to just see the park's highlights.


Once we arrived at the top of the mesa we were amazed to see the deep open canyon that cuts through the park!


The very first archaeological sight we viewed was the Cliff Palace.


Cliff Palace is an exceptionally large dwelling which may have had special significance to the original occupants.  It is thought to have been a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage.


The Cliff Palace contained approx 150 rooms, and 28 kivas, and had a population of around 100 people. The Kivas are round or rectangular rooms used for ceremonial purposes. The detail of the buildings was very well preserved considering their vast age


Two cowboys discovered Mesa Verde, specifically the Cliff Palace area, in 1891.  You can read their story on this link.  Mesas Verde was made a National Park in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.


Next, we drove to the viewpoint for the  "House of Many Windows."  Can you see it in the wall across the canyon?


Please click on the photo above to enlarge this placard at the site that explains more about the House of Many Windows


I zoomed in to see this remarkable structure. Isn't it amazing that this structure was built right into the walls of the canyon?


A closer zoom to see more of the detail.  Supposedly the windows  were really doors, that were once covered with animals skins or a stone slab. There are eleven rooms and a kiva on a 19 foot wide ledge.


The next area we visited was a structure called the "Pit House." The Pit House was a structure partly dug into the ground, and covered by a roof of some sort. It provided shelter from the weather and was also used to store food and for cultural gatherings and celebrations.

If you click on the photo collage above you can read area placards that tell more about the Pit House structures and their uses.  Most of the ancient Pueblo people lived this way on the mesa top, until they began to build the cliff dwellings the last 75-100 years of occupying Mesa Verde.


Look closely, and in the middle of the rocks in photo above, you can see our next stop--a view of the Navajo Canyon Overlook. Navajo Canyon is 700 feet deep and 15 miles long. It contains 60 cliff dwellings.



Next, we visited "Sun Point View."  As you can see by these photos the late afternoon sun was shining very brightly on the structures.


Close up of Sun Point View.  Archaeologists theorize that the ancient peoples that built these structures did so for protection against enemies, as well as storms and other environmental hazards. One can see how secluded, and hard to reach, that they were within the canyon's walls.


Click to enlarge this photo to read about our next stop, "Oak Tree House."


Oak Tree House held about fifty rooms and six kivas. It was multi level and made the most use of its alcove space.


Another structure that was still standing on the mesa top, was the "Sun Temple."  According to modern Pueblo Indians, the Sun Temple's features classify it as a ceremonial structure. Construction of this structure does not appear to be finished and it is thought that the ancient people left the area around that time.  By 1285, following a period of social and environmental instability, and severe and prolonged droughts, the people began to abandon the area and moved south to locations in Arizona and New Mexico.  By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.



We had almost made a full loop around and we saw the sun was beginning to get low in the sky, so we hurried along to see as much as we could.


Now instead of being at a view point next to the Cliff Palace that I showed earlier, we were directly across from it.


 From this perspective you can see how well protected and hidden the structures are from the top of the mesa.


A closer look at the structures.


The last area we viewed was "Spruce Tree House."


Spruce Tree House is the third largest cliff dwelling.  It was constructed between AD 1211 and 1278. It consisted of about 120 rooms and eight kivas, and built into a natural alcove measuring 216 feet at its greatest width and 89 feet at its greatest depth.  It is thought to have housed 60 to 80 people. As you can see in the photos above there was a ranger lead tour going on in the buildings. We hope to return one day to spend more time in Mesa Verde and take some of the cliff dwelling tours.  Visitors have to climb up and down steep vertical ladders to do this, so being in good physical condition to take the tours is important.


Although our visit was short, we really enjoyed our visit to Mesa Verde National Park, and we know we will return to see more of it in the future.


Our drive back down the mesa was lit by the glorious golden glow of the setting sun, and we were soon in our hotel room in Cortez, Colorado. The next day we were going to drive west to Navajo Nation where we were going to visit the Four Corners.  Please come back to read my next post to see the corners where the states of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah meet!


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58 comments:

Pondside said...

What a wonderful place - simply amazing from the view of the Mesa Verde in the distance, to the view from the Mesa itself. When I retire The Great Dane and I plan to drive to Arizona. This will definitely be on the list and I will make sure to plan to be there early in the day.

Stephanie said...

Such a unique and beautiful place! Thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspiring photos. Have a great week!

Linda W. said...

Oh how interesting! Another National Park I'd love to visit. Thanks for the tour.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat, Mesa Verde NP is another park I would like to visit too. I love the views and the cliff dwellings are just fascinating. Awesome series of photos and a great tour! Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

Lea said...

Amazing!
Have a great week!
Lea

Linda Kay said...

Pat, we have visited there as well, and it is such an unusually beautiful place!

LV said...

What a grand tour. I thourly enjoyed it through your lens.

Vee said...

Amazing! The people who lived there must have been protected from storms and beating sun.

happywonderer.com said...

Wonderful tour Pat. Have a great week!

Barbara said...

Such very interesting rock/mountain formations. Hubs and I need to add Mesa Verde to our list of things to visit after his retirement!

Tamar SB said...

I have to show this to my students! We're studying the Pueblo and their houses!

NC Sue said...

Stunning place, stunning shots,
Thanks for linking up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-walls-of-san-juan.html

Marcia said...

Thanks for sharing. I have fond memories of visiting there in 1994 on our cross country camping trip. At that time we took a tour down into one of the ruins. It was thrilling to put your hand in handholds made by the original occupants. I wonder if they still offer that tour?

Trisha said...

We visited Mesa Verde when I was in high school and I remember the walk down to it being okay, but getting out was a whole different story, especially when you are afraid of heights! Thanks for the memory...I need to go back again and experience it as an adult!

~Trisha

bj said...

This has always been one of our favorite places to visit. We lived not too far from Mesa Verde and when our boy was little, about 8, we took him into the museum there where they have a mummy named Ester...she was so well preserved to be so old, he talked about "Ester" for years and years...did you see her?

bj said...

OOPS..that should be Esther...:)
(I really can spell)

Brooke Neal said...

I need to take my children to Mesa Verde. I went once as a college student--it's time to go again and introduce this fantastic area to the next generation.

SmilingSally said...

Hi Pat,

This was an especially interesting place. Thanks for playing today.
Have a Beautiful Blue Monday!

ladyfi said...

The scenery is glorious1

Cathy Keller said...

Thank you, Pat! I do love your posts! I was 8 years old the first time we went to Mesa Verde. It continures to be an awesome spectacle! Thank you!

jeannettestgermain said...

Have seen these structures from the road and wondered how to get to one of these - so thanks for sharing your trip here! Gives me inspiration to jump in the car right now:)
Hope you join me in my new meme SEASONS - and add me to your list of memes. Anything in a season goes, so one of your pics here would be excellent. The link is open Mon-Wed. This week the post is called SEASONS - Curious about March. Hope to see you there:)

Pamela Gordon said...

I remember reading about Mesa Verde in high school and was totally fascinated by how these ancient peoples built the cliff homes. It really is amazing. Thanks for the great tour Pat! It is so interesting.

From the Kitchen said...

What an amazing place. A tip of the hat to the architects, builders and the photographer! I enjoyed my "trip" this afternoon.

Best,
Bonnie

Joe Todd said...

Linda and I visited there a few years
back Loved the place. Thanks for the
post. Now I'll go back and review my photos
LOL

Sylvia K said...

I do love your photos and thanks for the memories!! I visited Mesa Verde years ago and found it to be SO fascinating!! I really enjoyed having an incredible look at "history in the west" when my husband and I visited then!! I hope you have a great week!!

carol l mckenna said...

Wow what a beautiful photographic tour ~ just fascinating and you are having a grand time in CO ~ ^_^

Happy Week to you ~ ^_^

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

We finally made it to Mesa Verde a couple of years ago and we were in awe the entire time. We even did a couple of those long walks and ladder climbs...(I was gasping and not just in awe!). You can so easily imagine those dwellings and kivas filled with people ... . All in all one of our favorite NPs. Thank you for the beautiful pictures, the history brush up, and for the memories!

The Furry Gnome said...

Such amazing places!

Rajesh said...

Beautiful shots from historical place. That remains of palace is amazing.

Chandra@GreenComotion said...

Thank you so much for this lovely tour/treat!
I really enjoyed the history and the photos.
Have a Happy Week!!
Peace :)

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Wow...that is an amazing place! I recall seeing the sign to Mesa Verde as we drove by...but we couldn't stop to see it all! We so enjoyed our visit to Montezuma Castle...not too far from there.There we also saw some well-preserved cliff dwellings.

Have a great week!

Andrea said...

I have seen a few of these photos in the past and a few friends also went there, but everytime someone shows it i still read and scrutinize them. They are trully amazing.

By the way, in the first photo, is the topmost flat structure of the mountain at the right the one called Mesa Verde? Thanks.

elizabeth said...

What an amazing place!

Mersad said...

You always take the most amazing road trips. Thank you for sharing with us and for linking in with "Through My Lens"

Mersad
Mersad Donko Photography

Fun60 said...

What an interesting post. We don't hear enough about the history of the States.

Rambling Woods said...

This is so interesting and beautiful.. I remember seeing a documentary on this area and these dwellings.. Michelle

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Wow, Pat, Mesa Verde is amazing. The number of cliff dwellings is astounding! I loved every photo you have posted. When we were in Arizona in October it was my first chance to see cliff dwellings. This is just enormous compared to what we saw there. I'll return to see your trip to Four Corners. Have a great day! ♥

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

This is another park that is high on my list. I am really in awe at your photos. I like the idea of driving to a place in order to make a little road trip out of it.

Betsy Adams said...

Amazing post, Pat, and an amazing place we want to visit sometime... My list keeps getting longer.... ha

By the way, Sally (Smiling Sally) died.. She had been suffering from various health issues --but never let them get her down... I loved her --and even though I don't do memes much, I will never forget her Blue Monday meme. I'm sad today since this is our 2nd blog friend that we've lost recently... God Bless their families...

Hugs,
Betsy

Jacob William said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Barb said...

Mesa Verde is a national treasure. Your photos are wonderful, Pat, giving a perspective of the cliffs and the intricate buildings. It looks like you were there on a perfect CO blue-sky day!

Kelly @ Homespuns 'n Hayfields said...

Hi Pat, thanks for dropping in.

You're so lucky to be living there. I have family in Colorado so have visited many times and have been to Mesa Verde a couple of times. I just love your state, there are so many different and amazing features to be viewed and one place is so different than the next. Have a great evening, Kelly.

Julie Reinwald said...

I love Arizona! Your photos capture some its natural beauty. I live in Nebraska, so we are "neighbors" :) Denver is a great place!

Ida said...

Wow this is such an amazing place. I think it would be awesome to visit. I can't imagine living there but the people must have been quite advanced and did okay living there.

Jim said...

Beautiful.
Sydney – City and Suburbs

Jann Olson said...

We love Mesa Verde, but haven't been there in years. Would love to go again! You captured it's amazing beauty!! Thanks for sharing with SYC.
hugs,
Jann

ladyfi said...

So very lovely!

Art and Sand said...

After looking at your pictures, I am pretty sure that I visited Mesa Verde as a child. Thanks for bringing back a long forgotten memory.

Thanks for sharing at SYC.

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Fascinating post.....thank you for sharing this!
Happy weekend!

Dana of The Stone Rabbit said...

I can't imagine how difficult it must have been for the cliff dwellers to create those amazing structures at a time when they had so very little to use as tools!! We haven't seen this area, but did see some in Arizona....maybe part of the group that migrated from the spot you shared. A great post!!

L, Dana

Annesphamily said...

Hi Pat, nice seeing your photos. My dad took us all over the state when we were kids so I have been here but long long ago. I had the best dad ever! He made sure we saw much of where we were all born and raised. I still love traveling through Colorado it is one of the best places on earth in my humble opinion. I lost a dear friend in December, quite suddenly, and he would always say to me, be it ever so humble, there is no place like home. My kids already have a full calendar for this summer with so many activities they want to take us too. Little do they know, we have been there and done that before! You have a great weekend. As always, thanks for sharing your photos with us. Hugs, Anne

edenhills said...

What beautiful scenes! How I would love to see those cliff homes.

Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines said...

We've been here and to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison- two favorites! Such beauty and I am so glad it all is protected. I about burned my brakes up at Black Canyon on our first visit- I've since learned how to drive those steep grades and curves.

Tami Kenner said...

Pat..being out here on the East Coast, I am dreaming of going out West. Thank you for sharing. What an amazing destination!! Definitely on my list. Your photos are beautiful.
HPS
:-)
Tami

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

It has been years since I have been there and your post brought back a lot of memories. I love the story of how it was found. We are so lucky that it is so well preserved.

Cheryl @ TFD said...

Wow, this such an amazing place! Yet another place to add to my bucket list. As always, your photos are so beautiful!

Lisa Kerner said...

Mesa Verde... we almost put in for a job there. I still feel like that was the one that got away. I cannot wait to visit it some day.

diane b said...

That is one amazing place.