Exploring the Mystique of Mesa Verde

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By Karen McBride

As people are beginning to travel again, many Floridians are venturing out west to enjoy all of God’s amazing creations. The majestic mountains and deep canyons of Colorado are a sight to see, especially for those of us that are used to the flatlands and white sandy beaches of Florida.

Mesa Verde National Park is located in Colorado and home to vast canyons where the ancestors of the Pueblo people built thriving communities within the walls of the canyons. For over 700 years, the Pueblo people lived in the area, first making their homes in underground pit houses and scaling the cliffs to reach the water as it trickled into the caverns, known as seep springs. Eventually, they moved into cliff dwellings high in the walls of the canyons to be closer to the water supply. Although closer to the source of water, this also meant scaling cliffs each day to hunt and gather food from their farmland on the mesa tops. The hand and toe holds that were made to climb up and down the steep canyon walls are still visible at many of the sites.

One of the most amazing archeological sites is Cliff Palace. Discovered in the late 1800s, the structure was built by individually crafted blocks of sandstone, mortar, and wooden beams. It once contained 150 rooms and 23 Kivas, which were the gathering places to worship for the Pueblo people. The large number of Kivas indicates that their religion was very important to them.

Other sites include the Balcony House, which consisted of 38 rooms and 2 Kivas, and Long House, which is similar in size to Cliff Palace, with 150 rooms and 21 Kivas. Tickets for guided tours can be purchased to gain a first-hand experience to what it must have been like to live in these dwellings. To access Balcony House, visitors must climb a ladder and can choose to crawl through tunnels to get to the different rooms. A one-mile hike is required to gain access to Long House. Or you may choose to view the locations from one of the many overlooks throughout the park.

Around 1270 A.D., the Pueblo people began migrating to New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the remaining descendants had left Mesa Verde, but the incredible workmanship of the cliff dwellings has remained.

For more information or to plan your visit, go to https://www.nps.gov/meve/planyourvisit/index.htm

Photo of Cliff Palace, taken by Belinda Poirier.

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