We live in a world full of fascinating people and places; spectacular vistas that leave you awestruck, ancient ruins that allow you to travel back in time, and experiences that challenge your way of viewing the world. This second installment is a gem back in time: the ruins of the ancestral Pueblo people.
The Green Table: Mesa Verde National Park
With the car packed and time on our side, 2014 was the year of our family’s adventure through the United States. Driving through 20 states, we headed as far west as Montana, south to Arizona and then meandered our way home passing through states including Colorado, Missouri, and Kentucky. One our favorite stops was stepping back in time at the archaeological site of Mesa Verde National Park.
Spanish for “green table”, Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the southwestern corner of Colorado. Mesa Verde gives a glimpse into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years. Mesa Verde is the largest archaeological preserve in the U.S and protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings. The park is best known for the Cliff Palace with its 23 ceremonial kivas and 150 rooms. It is considered the largest cliff dwelling in North America and is the largest in Mesa Verde National Park. The buildings, contained within the cliff alcoves, are made of blocks of hard sandstone held together with mortar.
The only way to visit the archeological sites of Mesa Verde is with a ranger guided tour. Cliff Palace is a one-hour tour which involves climbing five, 8-10 foot ladders, on a 100 foot vertical climb, walking a total distance of 1/4-mile round-trip. For a person afraid of heights, this seemed a bit daunting but the climb was worth the effort. Standing in the centre of the community, it is amazing to think of the human effort and ingenuity needed for such an accomplishment.
For Your Information
This corner of the United States also boasts two other great attraction. Located within three hours from Mesa Verde National Park is Four Corners National Monument and Monument Valley. Four Corners National Monument is the only place in the United States where you can straddle four states at once: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. The monument, maintained by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department, consists of a disk surrounded by state seals and flags representing both the states and tribal nations of the area.
Monument Valley is made up of some of the most awe inspiring scenery and rock formations you’ll find in the southwest. Towering buttes, monuments and spires carved in the red earth litter the landscape. As the sun rises and sets across the valley, the color changes and long shadows travel along the valley floor. Within a short distance of each other Mesa Verde, Four Corners and Monument Valley are natural gems ready to be explored.