Where we were on September 11, 2016
Mesa Verde National Park in Mancos, Colorado is one of two original US World Heritage Sites, so designated in 1978, the other being Yellowstone - Grand Tetons. Too, Mesa Verde was one of four National Parks established by president Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.
Wow! Visiting two of our Nations World Heritage Sites back to back and only traveling a 140 miles.
This is the third time we have visited Mesa Verde over the years, and the thrill of being here is just as great as our first visit. The first thing we noticed is that we have a new Visitors Center with fascinating pictures and an abundance of information.
What a beautiful bronze sculptor of a Cliff Dweller climbing home, and here's Miss Dottie giving him a boost. The background is the beautiful Mancos River Valley.
When you see this word (download) underlined and in blue that indicates it is a hyper link to the full scale picture. When you open it you'll also see that your mouse pointer is a round plus sign, click again and the part of the photo where your pointer was will enlarge again. This is great if you might want to see more detail in a particular view. When you want to return to this page just tap the return arrow. Try it you might like it.
The new Visitors Center.
And behind the new Visitors Center in full bloom are the gorgeous yellow blossoms of the Chemise.
Mesa Verde Cliff dwellings were found by a rancher, Richard Wheterill, on a cold rainy day searching for stray cattle, in 1888.
Richard Wetherill, quickly made a business of archaeological finds at Mesa Verde and contracted with the National Archives and Smithsonian for articles of interest that he and his brother in law excavated from the ruins. At a later point in his life he relocated to Chaco Canyon and homesteaded a ranch very close to the Pueblo Bonita ruins at Chaco. He was under contract with the Smithsonian and was the first and major archaeologist at Chaco Canyon. He is burred there.
The Antiquities Act of 1906, under President Roosevelt, was to control who, how and what could be excavated; and to whom the articles of find belonged. The Act was more in response to the work of Richard Wheterill and his self acclaimed process of Archaeological digging. Too, this act stopped the shipment of finds to places outside of the United States.
This is my photograph of a beautiful oil painting of Mesa Verde Cliff Dwellings on display in the Visitors Center. It is so refined, that I had to include it in this Travel Log. Wouldn't it be inspiring to be here in the Winter and gaze upon these snow caped peaks of the San Juan Mountain Range?
The ole Cliff Chief was telling a good story, and he certainly held Dottie's attention. I need to know his secret technique of maintaining such successful communication.
It is a 20 mile drive through some beautiful but steep climbing and curving highway with spectacular views to the Cliff Dwellings. Along the way I took this photo of the Mancos River Valley. You can enjoy the beauty, but the smell of the junipers and high mountain clean air you must come and experience for yourself.
The Old Visitors Center is now a wonderful museum full of great artifacts, paintings, antique rugs and many treasures. Too, it is the center of your wanderings in visiting the Cliff Dwellings.
A short walk from the Museum is the Spruce Tree House. I took this photo from the walkway entrance, however, do to falling rock within the complex access into these dwelling have been closed. This closure was done some time in 2014. Regardless, I loved this shot taken as the sun was starting to set creating some fabulous shadows.
That was enough for us for the first day, so the next morning we arranged for a 10:00am tour of the Cliff House. The Tours are conducted by Park Service guides, and they are excellent presentations. The Park Service Guides make an extremely interesting and informative tour. They were scheduled on 30 minute intervals, and in this photo you can see the group ahead of us clustered and listing.
I'd like to point out something in this photograph. You can count some round structures most of which are Kivas. It is possible to now understand why the roofs on these round structures were capable of holding people, whether it be for dancing or just the children's playground. These surfaces would be the only open space available in this tight structured complex.
Remember the Great Kiva at the Aztec Ruins National Monument? Click here if you need a refresher.
I'm not sure what this photographer found so interesting shooting vertically, only he would know. Photographers will surprise you. You'll notice especially in the expanded view the masonry construction. Now think back to Chaco Canyon and that masonry. In my opinion Chaco had much finer artistic masonry than evidenced here at Mesa Verde. Too, Chaco it was also constructed some 500 years prior to Mesa Verde.
Weren't the Mesa Verge people magnificently organized in their effective use of space.
The walk on this tour we handled very easy, but we needed our walking sticks for balance. There were a hundred steps in the descent and 70 some in the climb out, plus a couple of ladders with 12 to 15 rounds. This was not problem for us, however on the other tour of the Palace House, where there are over 200 ladder steps in the 10 or so ladders we smiled and passed on that tour.
The Verde People lived on top of the Mesas prior to migrating into the Cliff Dwellings. There are preserved ruins to this evidence, so join us as we walk by the protected ruins of the their time and housing.
The first were the Basket People, and their dwellings were a partially excavated with the upper being Hogan type structure.
Then they developed their skill of construction and turned to the "Pit House". Upon excavation these ruins the Park Service has enclosed them in attractive structures for their preservation and display.
Dottie loves yellow flowers and these wild sunflowers were her delight. Sammy was allowed on this walking trail, but in most of the areas pets are not allowed. He found several cotton tail friends, but mean ole Dottie wouldn't let him loose.
Now the Dwellers have progressed, and we see the beginning of the use of rock and hence masonry. The always present Kiva.
The Archaeologist suggest by the third period, that they were approaching what we know as Pueblo style structures.
Note the sophistication of these Kiva's, and too, their depth.
The Dwellers were like the Chacoans small in stature with the men averaging 5' 0" in height, and too they were young. The life expectancy of women was 20 years and men 30 years. The infant mortality rate was better than 50%.
The Chacoans left Chaco Canyon by 1250 ~ 1300, and after they had left the Mesa Verde people inhabited the Chaco Ruins for a period of some 200 years.
What became of these people? There is archaeological evidence a 24 year drought period, and it is speculated that is why they relocated and left the Cliff Dwellings. Twenty four years might not be a long time in our lives, but at that time it was more than ones life span. Food and water have been the stimulus for moving for centuries. The theory now is that both the Chocans and the Verde people then populated the pueblos of the Rio Grande Valley, the Hopi Nation, and maybe the Zuni or Acoma tribes. But we suggest that you come and visit these sites and listen to the wind, and let the caves tell you their own story, then you'll appreciate the uniqueness of Mesa Verde
We started our visit to Mesa Verde with the yellow bloom of the Chamise, so it is proper to end it with a beautiful one surviving on the high mesa of an old forest fire.
Hey, what do you think of us heading west? We'd like to return to the country around Kayenta, AZ and visit the Oljato Monument Valley. This is another one I confess to have driven by many times over the years, but never taken a day or so just to explore Monument Valley. Sounds like a deal to me so lets head on down the road to Arizona.