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A MOMENT IN HISTORY: Mesa Verde National Park

Olivie Rey / Red Dirt Report
View on Mesa Verde canyon.
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MESA VERDE NATIONAL PARK, Colo. – Our trips are always a balance between three categories of activities; nature, gastronomy and cultural. And what the best way to honor cultural history (and nature) by visiting the Mesa Verde National Park.

Situated here in southwestern Colorado, close to the border with New Mexico, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt created the national park on 1906, on 52,485 acres. Mesa Verde is the largest archaeological preserve in the U.S. including among other about 600 cliff dwellings.

The ancient Pueblo lived on the site for millennia but they really started to evolve into structured village (pueblo in Spanish) in late 600s. But due to a long period of drought they left the place more than 600 years later.

While we had enjoyed the freshness of the mountains through the San Juan Skyway with temperature by moment close to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And even though the Mesa Verde National Park stands at more than 7,000 feet high, the temperature was up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. But according to a ranger, we met, “It was a fresh day.” As it is not uncommon the thermometer exceeds blithely 120 degrees Fahrenheit in summer.

Due to high altitude and hot weather, there is only one prescription to avoid dehydration and a headache, drink! Drink a lot of water!

Driving through the park to the archeological sites we could see that Mesa Verde, which means “green table,” deserves well its name. Even if often along the road, we saw vestiges of wildfires indicated by a sign with a date.

The entry of the park is $20 per car but doesn’t include the price of ranger-guided visits. In this case, you will add 5 dollars per person per visit. It is highly recommended to go early to book the visit for the day. Two sites are essential: Cliff Palace and Balcony House.

We started by the most famous, Cliff Palace, and we quickly understand why after seeing the great preservation of the village encrusted into the cliff. The village was composed of 150 rooms implemented in multi-story buildings made of sandstone, mortar and wooden beams. It was designed to host upwards of 130 people.

“Listen, we are only 30 people and see how much it is already noisy. Just try to imagine the noise it was when 130 people were living here,” said a ranger during our visit.

The people living here by the 1190s were not only great architect able to design strong and high buildings with almost no tools, but also strong people able to transport heavy load and climb easily the surrounding cliffs. To add to their credit they didn’t know metallurgy, there were no horses and they didn’t know the invention of the wheel. At the time where people can’t live without their smartphone, it let me speechless.

While the Balcony House site was much smaller with only 40 rooms, the obligation to climb a wood ladder of 32 foot and pass into a tunnel, makes the visit much more adventurous.

We continued our visit through the park stopping to see ruins of Pueblo buildings, cliff dwellings, look outs on the canyon and of course, the museum that provides a lot of information and artifacts about the Pueblo civilization.

Our only regret? To have not stayed a night on a campsite of the park to watch the night sky as there is almost no light pollution by here.

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About the Author

Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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