Regarded as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mesa Verde National Park is situated in Montezuma province of Colorado. Mesa Verde is the Spanish word that when translated into English means ‘green table’ due to its forests of juniper and pinon trees. The main unique feature of this 81.4-square-mile park is its array of ruins of homes and villages that were built by the ancient Pueblo folks called the Anasazi. The park, today, preserves more than 4,000 archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings, which are among the most remarkable in the United States.
These stone villages came into existence since 1200 A.D. when they acted as the residences of the Anasazi. Besides these historic sites, the park boasts a myriad of magnificent cliffs dwellings made in caves and under projections such as the Cliff Palace as the largest cliff dwelling in North America, mesa top pueblos, farming terraces, towers, reservoirs, and check dams.
Architecture to Marvel at
Mesa Verde is famous for its myriad of well-maintained cliff dwellings or houses carved in shallow caves and under rock outcrops along the walls of canyon. The structures within the niches are made up of blocks of hard sandstone joined together with adobe mortar. Most of the structures built here are as per the common Pueblo architectural forms such as Kivas, towers, and pit-houses.
As per the recent discovery, it was found that not all the people lived in cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde. In fact, many of them lived in the canyon rims and slopes where multi-family structures grew in exceptional sizes. These structures were actually sandstone/mortar edifices adorned with decorative motifs and T-shaped windows and doors. Many archaeologists, since 1999, have taken this as the proof of the reach of the Chaco Canyon elite system that had collapsed 100 years ago. On the contrary, other experts consider these motifs as a generalized Puebloan style holding some spiritual importance.
The Mug House is a standard cliff dwelling of the Pueblo era, which was the residence of some 100 people who lived together in 94 small rooms. Also, there were eight kivas built against each other whose walls were shared. This ruin is nestled on the Wetherill Mesa that was well excavated in the late 1960s. Besides rooms, the structure boasts four levels along with a big kiva, simple vertical walls, and masonry pilasters. This ceremonial edifice also contains a keyhole shape because of a niche at the rear of the fireplace and a deflector, a great part of the Mesa Verde design. The rooms are seen around the kiva, which are a part of the courtyard depicting that the kiva might have a roof.
The Cliff Palace, in ruins now, is the largest and famous cliff dwelling in the Mesa Verde National Park. There are some 150 known rooms along with 23 kivas. This big and well made Mesa Verde site depicts a long history of their work and architectural design. Surprisingly, the digging here has been carried out since many decades of the 20th century.
The Spruce Tree House is another well-maintained cliff dwelling situated on Chapin Mesa, which is easily accessible. In these ruins, you can enter a kiva with its roof been restored. As per the latest excavations, this structure was inhabited for less than 100 years as the case with many other dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park.
Do check out for the tallest structure in Mesa Verde called the Square Tower House. It is found that this cliff dwelling was inhabited from 1200 to 1300 AD.
The Mesa Verde Reservoirs, ancient ones built by the Pueblos, are also worth having a glimpse at. These were designated as a National Civil Engineering Historic Landmark in 2004.
The Balcony House was first re-explored by the excavator, S.E. Osborn, in 1884 as per the information containing his name and the date found in a dwelling close by and due to his published newspaper account of dwellings matching the house’s description in 1886.
The Far View Lodge is the only lodging in the Mesa Verde National Park from where you can have the spectacular views. This serene and comfortable haven ensures stunning panoramic views, wildlife watching, and stargazing chances. From here, you can start the journey to take up a guided tour and explore Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, jeeping, and rafting in Durango along with gift shops with Native American handcrafts.
If you like camping, the Morefield Campground is your place. Located in splendid canyon backdrop at a distance of 4.5 miles from the park entrance, Morefield Campground offers a wide variety of comfortable and reasonable camping options.
The entrance fee is $15.00 per car from Memorial Day to Labor Day and $10.00 per car for other days.