Thursday, August 8, 2013

Great Sites: Mesa Verde National Park

Part 1: The Park
Mesa Verde National Park is probably the most popular of the great Ancestral Pueblo Culture sites.  The cliff dwellings feature the advanced building expertise of the Chacoan Ancestral Pueblo Culture showcased in beautiful, natural sandstone cliff alcoves.

“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 A.D. 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.”
Mesa Verde National Park is in Southwestern Colorado. The Mesa Verde Headquarters is a one-hour drive from Cortez, Colorado, heading east on Highway 160 to the park turnoff, and a 1.5 hour drive from Durango, Colorado, heading west on Highway 160 to the park turnoff.
Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum

What to do:

The Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center and Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum offer glimpses into the culture of Ancestral Pueblo people. 
There are five cliff dwellings open to the public.  Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House, can only be entered on a ranger-guided tour but Spruce Tree House and Step House can be explored on your own.  

Mesa Top Loop Road on Chapin Mesa is a six-mile drive that offers amazing canyon views and a chance to learn about the Ancestral Pueblo people’s occupation and architecture through time. 

Hear about Mesa Verde from the park rangers who know it inside and out. Learn the vibrant story of the Ancestral Pueblo people’s lifeways on the mesa for over 750 years.
Cliff House

Whatever your interest, you will find a program to satisfy your curiosity.  Wander Prater Ridge Trail, try to decipher the art on Petroglyph Trail, or discover the lushness of Spruce Canyon. Whatever you decide, taking a walk or a hike will give you a chance to see some of the park’s hidden gems.
Check the park website, , to plan your visit.  No matter what season, there is always something see.
Knife Edge Road 1920
See how Knife Edge Road has changed since 1920.  And for a relaxing stay, check out Far View Lodge conveniently located inside the park.

Next week we’ll delve into the sites and culture.

-- Courtney Miller

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