Friday, November 25, 2016

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Only 3 hours from Moab, Utah in the southwest corner of Colorado, we take a quick side trip to Mesa Verde National Park.

The park and the ruins are over 1,000 feet above the valley. The Mancos Mountains are snow-capped, and it is much cooler here. The highest elevation in the park is over 8,400 feet. Mesa Verde contains some of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the world built by ancient pueblo people, the Anasazi, who populated the Colorado Plateau starting about 1,500 years ago until about 800 years ago.
Of over 4,500 archeological sites, only 600 are cliff dwellings, like this most famous ruin, Cliff Palace. Unfortunately tours have ended for the season and that's the only way to get a closer look. During off-season, only the rim drives are open with overviews of most of the ruins.
It is mind-boggling to imagine how the Anasazi accessed these homes. Many dwellings have evidence of toe and finger holds carved into the cliff walls. While these incredible builders lived in this area for 700 years, no one knows what caused them to leave in about 1,200 AD, but the cliff dwellings have been vacant since that time.
Near the very informative museum is Spruce Tree House. Mesa Verde NP also contains numerous sites of pit houses built on top of the mesas, but the cliff dwellings are the most intriguing. Pit houses and villages were built prior to the cliff dwellings, but were dangerous places, many succumbing to fires.

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