From under the sandstone cave, we peered up the canyon walls in amazement at what this ancient culture had constructed and wondered at how they lived. This visit to the beautifully-preserved cliff dwellings of southwestern Colorado was the 6th National Park of our 12 parks in 2014 goal. This was also to be the start of a 4-day, 4-park adventure in Colorado, Utah and Arizona.
Mesa Verde National Park was established the same year that President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act of 1906. The goal of the act was to preserve prehistoric Indian ruins and prevent “pot hunters” from taking these precious artifacts for their personal collections.
Because of those actions along with the creation of the National Parks, people from across the world now have an opportunity to visit these ancient culture sites such as Mesa Verde, which is the largest archeological preserve in the United States. Case in point, while on our visit it was delightful hearing many different languages … French, Spanish, German … being spoken by our fellow visitors.
During our descent from atop the green mesa top, down to the Cliff Palace we also enjoyed listening to our park ranger tour guide tell us about the geologic formation of these caves and of the people who built these amazing structures. We were able to peak inside one of the dwellings to view the preserved murals and see how they made use of this stone palace. Then, it was time to climb back up to the top of the cliff through narrow crevasses on wooden ladders. From Cliff Palace, we then made our way through the Park to see other amazing sites.
With the park being established in 1906, I was also interested in the “contemporary” architecture at the park’s visitors center. The vernacular 1920 pueblo revival architecture of the museum and gift shop lent itself to the setting of of this mesa top site. Inside one the beautiful buildings, was a simple museum that provided a lovely display of artifacts and also highlighted some local art work including some incredible murals by native artists.
As evening creeped in and the deer came out to play, we took the winding road back to the main highway and continued our trek further west and on to our next National Park adventure.