Mesa Verde National Park is different from any national park we have visited in the past. It’s purpose is to maintain, research and discover new archeological sites/relics from the ancestral Puebloans. The park has over 4,500 sites of which 600 are cliff dwellings. This time of year some of the bigger cliff dwellings are closed and will not open until May. But, again, we prefer the less crowded and more comfortable weather in early April. So, we were perfectly happy limiting our exploration to the cliff dwelling a short hike down into the canyon behind the Chapin Mesa museum. What is especially cool about this cliff dwelling. Spruce Tree House, was you are able to walk into the structures and climb down in the underground kivas.
It is so remarkable how organized the Puebloans were. Each area of the cliff dwelling is designated for specific functions for the community—communal place to grind corn, individual sleeping areas, cooking, weaving, etc. It seems like a very comfortable place to live protecting you from the winter snow and winds and the cliff overhang shading in the hot summer. There must have been something significant happen to make someone abandon a home like this back in 1200 AD. No one really knows why.
The park has also done a wonderful job of designing their modern structures in a style that complements the Pueblo structures with the same shades of tan and copying the small windows. The Chapin Mesa museum was not large, but contained a lot of finds from the ruins—woven sandals, baskets, even stored corn from over 100 years ago.
The twenty miles you must travel to get to Visitor Center is extremely steep and contains many hairpin turns. It took us an hour to drive. Before we went to the park, it was hard to imagine the cliff dwellings were not “found” until 1888 over 600 years since they were abandoned, but after the difficult way in it is not so hard to figure out why!