Exploring Ancient Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park

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Okay guys, I am ALMOST done playing show and tell from our family road trip that we took in June! This was our main destination = exploring ancient cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park!

My good friend Wikipedia is going to step in here and share a bit about Mesa Verde with yall:
Mesa Verde is a National Park and World Heritage Site located in Montezuma County, Colorado. It protects some of the best preserved Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites in the United States.
Created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, it occupies 52,485 acres near the Four Corners region of the American Southwest, and with more than 4,300 sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, it is the largest archeological preserve in the US. Mesa Verde (Spanish for “green table”) is best known for structures such as Cliff Palace, thought to be the largest cliff dwelling in North America.
Starting c. 7500 BCE, Mesa Verde was seasonally inhabited by a group of nomadic Paleo-Indians known as the Foothills Mountain Complex. The variety of projectile points found in the region indicates they were influenced by surrounding areas, including the Great Basin, the San Juan Basin, and the Rio Grande Valley.

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Later, Archaic people established semi-permanent rock shelters in and around the mesa. By 1000 BCE, the Basketmaker culture emerged from the local Archaic population, and by 750 CE the Ancestral Puebloans had developed from the Basketmaker culture.
The Mesa Verdeans survived using a combination of hunting, gathering, and subsistence farming of crops such as corn, beans, and squash. They built the mesa’s first pueblos sometime after 650, and by the end of the 12th century, they began to construct the massive cliff dwellings for which the park is best known.
By 1285, following a period of social and environmental instability driven by a series of severe and prolonged droughts, they abandoned the area and moved south to locations in Arizona and New Mexico, including Rio Chama, Pajarito Plateau, and Santa Fe.
My parents were absolute champs with this stop, and watched out two daughters (too young to come along) while we went on a guided excursion to Balcony House. With 40 rooms, Balcony House is considered a medium size cliff dwelling. Evidence of how room and passageway construction in the alcove evolved through time can easily be seen in Balcony House.
The tunnels, passageways, and 32 foot entrance ladder hanging on the side of the canyon wall are what make it the most adventurous cliff dwelling tour in the park, so we HAD to do this trek. And MAN, was it a thrill!!

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After visiting Balcony House, we did another ranger guided tour of Cliff Palace, the main attraction of Mesa Verde. This this is simply unbelievable, you have to see it to believe it.. picture DO NOT do it justice!
Recent studies reveal that Cliff Palace contained 150 rooms and 23 kivas and had a population of approximately 100 people. Out of the nearly 600 cliff dwellings concentrated within the boundaries of the park, 75% contain only 1-5 rooms each, and many are single room storage units. Cliff Palace is an exceptionally large dwelling which may have had special significance to the original occupants. It is thought that Cliff Palace was a social, administrative site with high ceremonial usage.
Sandstone, mortar and wooden beams were the three primary construction materials for the cliff dwellings. The Ancestral Pueblo people shaped each sandstone block using harder stones collected from nearby river beds. The mortar between the blocks is a mixture of local soil, water and ash. Fitted in the mortar are tiny pieces of stone called “chinking.” Chinking stones filled the gaps within the mortar and added structural stability to the walls. Over the surface of many walls, the people decorated with earthen plasters of pink, brown, red, yellow, or white — the first things to erode with time.
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We had an amazing time sightseeing, climbing, hiking and exploring the region. When not out and about about the park, we had fun sitting on our balcony, drinking local Colorado wine and watching rabbits, marmots, bats and birds flit around in the evening.

Seriously cannot wait till the kids are older, because we are definitely going back someday!

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Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.

Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

69 thoughts on “Exploring Ancient Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park

    • 13 September, 2016 at 4:24 pm
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      Yeah, you really have to see it to believe it!!

  • 13 September, 2016 at 10:38 am
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    Gingi, I has never heard of this place until now… how interesting. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to climb the ouside cliff.. I have a fear if heights ?♡♡

    • 13 September, 2016 at 4:24 pm
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      My hubby has a slight fear, and he got a little nervous on the ladder, but otherwise did great!

  • 13 September, 2016 at 10:50 am
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    Great pictures! However, this 6’5″ frame is NOT going to even try to get into those narrow passages. Just ain’t going to happen!

    • 13 September, 2016 at 4:25 pm
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      Haha, at the visitor center they had a practice tunnel to crawl through that you had to try before going on the tour!

  • 13 September, 2016 at 3:00 pm
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    Oh my, this is so cool! But I would be dead scared to climb through the tunnels and tiny places xD

    • 13 September, 2016 at 4:25 pm
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      You could do it!!!

  • 13 September, 2016 at 10:10 pm
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    I think this is just mind blowing. Amazing what people were able to do, and to see how they lived. Gonna add this to the bucket list, as I’d love to see it in person!

    • 14 September, 2016 at 4:01 pm
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      What the pictures dont capture is the sheer drop these houses are settled on.. it is INSANE!

    • 14 September, 2016 at 4:01 pm
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      I know, right?!?!?

    • 14 September, 2016 at 4:01 pm
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      You really do, it is a little known treasure in the US!

    • 14 September, 2016 at 4:01 pm
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      You shoooooould!!!!!

  • 14 September, 2016 at 11:28 am
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    LOVED seeing these!! What a fun adventure, although I’d be a little claustrophobic in some spots!

    • 14 September, 2016 at 4:02 pm
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      Hahaha, yeah, there were some tight squeezes!

  • 14 September, 2016 at 10:21 pm
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    Ack, the anthropologist in me is so jealous and really geeking out right now! I so want to go here!

    • 15 September, 2016 at 3:52 pm
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      RIGHT?! I felt like an Indiana Jones chick or something, trying to find clues and scavenge, haha!

    • 15 September, 2016 at 3:53 pm
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      Thanks for commenting! <3 <3 <3

  • 15 September, 2016 at 5:59 am
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    Wow, this place is mindblowing, Gingi. I am sure you had a fantastiv time exploring the ancient beauty.
    xox
    Lenya
    FashionDreams&Lifestyle

    • 15 September, 2016 at 3:53 pm
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      You really need to SEE it to get the scope and the scale.. it WAS mindblowing! Cant wait to go back!

    • 15 September, 2016 at 3:53 pm
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      I know, right?!?!

    • 15 September, 2016 at 3:53 pm
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      I know, right?!?! Cant wait to go back.

  • 15 September, 2016 at 9:59 am
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    How very cool! Must have felt like quite an adventure exploring the place.

    • 15 September, 2016 at 3:54 pm
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      I am nervous that other vacations wont quite stack up after this one, haha!

  • 15 September, 2016 at 3:26 pm
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    Wow, this park looks amazing, I actually wouldn’t guess this was in the U.S. had you not mentioned it! I’ve never heard of or read a blog post discussing this park before, so I greatly appreciate you introducing it to me! Thanks for sharing and I hope you’re having a great week so far!

    XO,

    Jalisa
    http://www.thestylecontour.com

    • 15 September, 2016 at 3:55 pm
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      Yeah, it is amazing how many people have no idea that it even exists in the US! Its such a well kept secret!!

  • 15 September, 2016 at 3:57 pm
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    Lol loved the intro “your good friend Wikipedia”?. Mess Verde looks beautiful and I always appreciate historical monuments because there are a lot stories to tell from that. Lovely posts.

    • 15 September, 2016 at 4:00 pm
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      Hahaha, if I tried to remember all the details, it would be a trainwreck! Copy and paste is SO MUCH easier! 😉

    • 16 September, 2016 at 5:15 pm
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      It really was!! My mind is just blown by how awesome it was! <3

    • 16 September, 2016 at 5:15 pm
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      Right?!?!? Thanks for stopping by sweetie!

    • 16 September, 2016 at 5:16 pm
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      Thanks Tessy! <3

  • 16 September, 2016 at 6:26 am
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    Wow that really must have been something to see in person! It looks like it was a lot of fun. Lovely photos!

    • 16 September, 2016 at 5:16 pm
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      You had to SEE it to believe it.. just incredible!

    • 16 September, 2016 at 5:16 pm
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      Sure thing, Ill go check it out now! <3

  • 16 September, 2016 at 3:19 pm
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    Interesting place – I haven’t been yet but we were just at Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico a few days ago which is smaller but amazingly similar!

    • 16 September, 2016 at 5:17 pm
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      WOW, you were really close then!!! If you are still in the area, you need to go check this place out! <3

  • 16 September, 2016 at 8:20 pm
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    I had never heard about this place before -it is just amazing !!!! I hope that someday I will visit this park 🙂

    • 17 September, 2016 at 3:23 pm
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      You really should go if you get the chance!! <3

    • 18 September, 2016 at 3:03 pm
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      Thanks! We had a blast! <3

    • 18 September, 2016 at 3:04 pm
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      Thank you Gil! You too! <3

  • 18 September, 2016 at 3:45 pm
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    Your photos are incredible! I would have been hesitant about those tight spaces but it looks like an amazing place to visit!

    Jill
    Doused In Pink

    • 19 September, 2016 at 3:08 pm
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      It really was! And thank you, I had so much fun taking the photos! <3

    • 19 September, 2016 at 3:09 pm
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      <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 We had so much fun!

    • 19 September, 2016 at 3:09 pm
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      Yeah, I was gobbling up history books on the place on our way there!

  • 18 September, 2016 at 7:39 pm
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    what an a amazing place, though some of those ladders look a bit daunting to me (vertigo!)

    • 19 September, 2016 at 3:10 pm
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      Yeah, my husband got a bit nervous here and there, lol

  • 18 September, 2016 at 10:32 pm
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    I’d never heard of this fantastic place.
    Your photo’s and the information you’ve given were a delight.
    I’m not sure I would have liked the heights though. You clearly fully enjoyed the trip, and I do hope you will be able to go back once the girls are a little older.

    Enjoy the remaining weeks of September

    All the best Jan

    • 19 September, 2016 at 3:10 pm
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      I had not heard of it either, until I stumbled upon it in a 501 places to visit before you die book.. then I was like, MUST GO THERE!!! haha…

  • 19 September, 2016 at 3:32 pm
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    Hello, wow! What an amazing place to visit. I would love to see this place some day. I am not so sure about climbing the ladders and crawl spaces though. Your photos are awesome, great info and post. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week ahead!

    • 20 September, 2016 at 3:29 am
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      Happy Monday to you too!!! Please do check it out if you ever get the chance.. it is SO worth it! <3

    • 20 September, 2016 at 3:30 am
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      Gonna check out your page now sweetie! <3

  • 20 September, 2016 at 8:13 pm
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    Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my.
    What a spectacular place.
    That steep ladder would do me in, and I could cope with the tunnels, so I am soooo grateful that you did.

    • 21 September, 2016 at 2:57 pm
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      Hahaha, the ladder was a little daunting at first!!

  • 21 September, 2016 at 3:49 pm
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    FABULOUS travelogue and brought back great memories. Dave and I did a similar southwestern trip back in 1997 and included Mesa Verde. It was a “heart in throat” experience and not sure I’m able to do it now. Then again, don’t have to…due to your wonderful travelogue. Many thanks!

    • 26 September, 2016 at 9:25 pm
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      Soooo happy to hear that you were able to do Mesa Verde! This trip certainly is one for the family photo album.. I know we will always treasure these experiences!!! <3

Comments are closed.