Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park

I can’t believe that an entire month has transpired since we returned home from our RV road trip through Colorado on June 10th, and somehow I lost my writing mojo along the way.

For someone who LOVES to travel, takes a ton of photographs, writes for a hobby and then truly enjoys sharing our adventures, this was so out of character for me. But, sometimes life gets in the way, other things become a priority, and before you know it, thirty days have come and gone.

But, I still have a couple of places that we visited in June that I want to get down into the memory vaults before I forget them all together… 

June 5 – 7th – Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park Entrance

President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park in 1906. It is the only National Park in the United States that was created to preserve Ancestral Pueblo culture and prehistoric architecture.

About AD 500, long before Europeans explored North America, some of the people living in the Four Corners area migrated to Mesa Verde. Here they grew crops and hunted game on the mesa top, and built alcove villages beneath overhanging cliffs.

“Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, 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 archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.” ~ nps.gov

In the late 1200’s, over a span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away.

Local ranchers discovered the ruins in the 1880’s. Since that time, archeologists have spent decades doing excavation, analysis, classification and comparison, trying to understand the lives of the people who lived here.

Still our knowledge is incomplete…

We do know that the cliff dwellers were adept at building, and skillful at living in a difficult landscape. Their basic construction material was sandstone that they shaped into bricks, mortar and wooden beams. There are over 5,000 archeological sites, including nearly 600 cliff dwellings spread over 52,000 acres inside the park.

Here is a brief introduction film if you are planning to visit:

We allowed two and a half days, but the highlights could be covered in less time if you are well-organized and willing to cover a lot of ground in one day.

We stopped at the visitors center the afternoon of our arrival. This is the best place to purchase your tickets if you are planning on doing a ranger guided tour of Cliff Palace, Balcony House of Long House. That is the only way you can see these three amazing dwellings up close as there are no self-guided tours allowed.

MESA VERDE VISITOR AND RESEARCH CENTER

Visitor’s Center

Entrance into the National Park is $20/car (free with Senior pass) or $15/motorcycle. The ranger guided tours are $5 per person per tour.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking at least one of the guided tours. We chose the Cliff Palace tour for our first full day, and the Long House tour for the following day. We ruled out the Balcony House tour as it sounded a little too adventurous for us with crawling through a 18-inch wide tunnel for 12 feet and then climbing up a 60 foot open cliff ladder.

Sadly Spruce Tree House was closed during our visit due to recent rockfalls.

We also stopped at several view points and self-guided sites along the way, but by far the highlights were the two guided tours we took.

CLIFF PALACE 

Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. It contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas (round sunken rooms of ceremonial importance). It is estimated that approximately 100 people lived here.

“It is thought that Cliff Palace was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage.” ~ Wikipedia

There is no age or height restriction on this one-hour tour, but children must be able to climb ladders by themselves or be carried in a backpack.

Here is a sampling of what you will see:

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LONG HOUSE

Long House

This is the second largest cliff dwelling in the park. A good 2.25 mile hike is involved in this two-hour ranger-guided tour as well as climbing two 15-foot (4.5 m) ladders within the site.

As we approached, the area was badly scarred in places due to recent fires

Looking through a knothole

The hike to Long House:

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There were a lot of similarities in the construction of the two cliff dwellings. Here are some of our shots from Long House:

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I’m not sure that I had a favorite between Cliff Palace and Long House, but our guide on the longer Long House tour was excellent. He engaged everyone, making us use our wits to figure out what we would use for building materials, how we would do the construction, where we would get our food, and find a source of water.

GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that the writing bug has returned, perhaps not full-fledged, but at least enough to allow me to get these memories recorded.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our "next chapter". At a stage in life where traveling the world, taking pictures, and sharing our adventures with friends and family will be our dream come true.
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17 Responses to Mesa Verde National Park

  1. I remember going to Mesa Verde with my parents when I was a little kid. We took a tour, too, and I remember climbing ladders. I would love to return there – my visit was such a long time ago! Your photos make me happy.

    Like

  2. joliesattic says:

    Neat! My family and I loved going there. so many people from all over go there that one summer, we counted the license tags in the parking lot and we got all but a couple of states and some of Canada in just a few hours, including Alaska and Hawaii. The couple of states that we didn’t find we got on the road back home.

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    • I love that idea of looking for all the different license plates in crowded parking lots. We used to have a game of “golf” as kids when on the road to help pass the time that involved taking turns with my sister. If she were up first, each car that passed us with an Oregon plate was one stroke. When a car with an out of state plate passed us, that was “in the hole”and then I was us. We would play 9 or 18 holes depending on how long the trip was.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael Alesko says:

    My kids and I had a great time playing license plate hunt on a tour of several National parks. Great blog here Joanne. Glad the writing muse is back…

    Like

  4. You’ve reminded me of this place with your beautiful post. Every time I see photos of these amazing cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde I know I need to visit. Hopefully we’ll make it to Colorado soon.

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  5. Sharon says:

    Just wow 😲😍

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  6. Terry says:

    An amazing place to visit. I say 2-3 days minimum is required to see the sites and be unhurried. My son and I did it 28 years ago when he was 10 and we both loved it. Balcony House was great, he loved the climb and scramble on hands and knees through the cave

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  7. mitzybricker says:

    A wonderful park, indeed! We went there years ago with all 11 of our children between my twinster and me! 😊 We had a blast!

    Blue Rock Horses Frederick County, Virginia bluerockhorses.com

    Like

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