The sheer size of Mesa Verde National Park is awe inspiring. The park includes 4,500 archeological sites; only 600 are cliff dwellings. Needless to say, we only explored a fraction of these on the day we visited. Some of us were braver than others, exploring both the Balcony House and the Cliff Palace on guided tours, We had booked on the Twilight photography tour of Cliff Palace which was a much better time to get photographs as there were less people and the lighting was much better then rather than struggling with the glare of the hot sun reflecting off the rocks. It had started to cool off a little bit too.
Some history: "About AD 550, some of the people living in the Four Corners region, decided to move onto the Mesa Verde. For over 700 years these people and their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of canyon walls. But by the late 1200s in th span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away. Since the 1880s when the cliff dwellings were first re;red, archaeologist have sought to understand the lives of the people
who lived there, Despite decades of excavation analysis, classification and comparison, the knowledge is incomplete" "Cliff Palace, whilst the Ancestral Pueblo people carried on their daily lives here, research in the late 19901 revelled that Cliff Palace is different from most other sites at Mesa Verde, both in how it was built and in how it was used, The alcove is about 215 feet wide by about 90 feet deep and 60 feet high. It includes about 150 rooms, 75 constructed open areas, and 21 kivas and 2 kiev-like structures. Construction was ongoing from AD1190 to AD 1280 and it was inhabited by an estimated 100-120 people."
National Park Service, US Department of the Interior.
No wonder it is an amazing and fascinating archeological treasure.
The descent down into Cliff Palace leads down uneven stone steps, and the 100 foot climb back up 3 separate ladders are a bit challenging for those with a fear of heights and it does require a reasonable level of fitness. The tours are well worth taking the time to undertake. The ranger provided a very full explanation of this archeological site and answered many questions from the group of
people we shared the experience with. Up close and personal to the cliff dwellings really gives a sense of awe at how these early people lived and survived in what is a challenging environment.
We also viewed Spruce Tree house and many other cliff dwellings hidden amongst the cliffs and canyons of the Mesa Verde which are inaccessible up close however they can be seen from the top of the mesa.
A brilliant day of exploration and discovery which I highly recommend. Another awesome day in America. If you ever get the chance - make sure you plan to spend time here to enjoy and explore the geology and the history of this region.
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