Mesa Verde National Park

Description

For hundreds of years, the vast expanses of Mesa Verde (meaning Green Table) supported Ancestral Puebloan agriculture and sheltered architecturally sophisticated dwellings. The area received enough rainfall to allow the once-nomadic people to become farmers. After living in pit houses (circa AD 750), they built mesa-top pueblos using sandstone blocks and mortar made of mud. Between 1150 and 1300, their architecture reached its peak, when, to accommodate a growing population, they built elaborate structures in the shelter of overhanging cliffs. The mystery of Mesa Verde came to light in the late 19th century, when two cowboys stumbled across a magnificent structure known as Cliff Palace---a discovery that begged the question: Where had the inhabitants gone more than 500 years earlier? No one really knew---and it remains a mystery tothis day. In 1906, Mesa Verde was declared a national park, the first to be so designated for the preservation of human cultural remains. Also a World Heritage Site as of 1978, Mesa Verde today offers scenic drives, hiking, and unforgettable archaeological tours. Once home to about 150 people, Cliff Palace fires your imagination with its 150 rooms grouped around 21 kivas (a room used for religious rituals). Spruce Tree House, has 140 rooms and 8 kivas tucked into a large cave. In summer, visit the Wetherill Mesa (open from 10 to 5 in summer), whose concentration of sites lies at the end of a long, twisty, bumpy road. Once you arrive, a train takes you to Long House, Mesa Verde’s second largest cliff dwelling, then to Mesa Top sites and canyon overlooks. For a close-up view of the rugged scenery, hike the Knife Edge Trail or Prater Ridge Trail. Be on the lookout for typical mesa residents: foxes, mule deer, tassel-eared squirrels, and hawks, to name a few. There are several spectacular overlooks (of them, Park Point is perhaps the best, with an elevation of 8,571 feet and a staffed fire tower) en route to the Far View Visitor Center, 15 miles into the park. At the center, which is open spring to fall from 8 to 5, you can arrange dwelling tours and take in exhibits covering Puebloan artifacts and geography. You can also arrange tours at the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum (open 8 to 6:30 in summer and 9 to 4:30 or 5 in winter), where Native American culture displays include a great collection of pottery. At Morefield Campground/Village, facilities include 267 sites (15 with RV hookups), a café, a coin-op laundry, a gas station, a grocery store, and free showers. Wintertime facilities are limited, though many come here for cross-country skiing along snow-covered roads. In any season, wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water; dehydration and sunburn happen fast up here.

Address

PO Box 8
Mesa Verde, CO 81330

Lat/Long

37.25824200, -108.49817200
Visit Website
(970) 529-4465

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