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bootlegga Mesa Verde National Park - A travel report by James
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Mesa Verde National Park,  United States - flag United States -  Colorado
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bootlegga's travel reports

Anasazi - Precursor to the Aztecs?

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Page: 1 2
Situated just outside Cortez, Colorado is Mesa Verde National Park. It is here that an advanced Stone Age civilization flourished for almost six hundred years.

Mesa Verde National Park travelogue picture
Anasazi -- A quick check of Internet search engines will produce spectacular pictures about the Anasazi, a Stone Age civilization that lived in the region circa 650 AD – 1300 AD. At its height, the entire region supported over 50,000 inhabitants. Mesa Verde itself had 5-10,000. By way of comparison, at the same time in Europe, London and Paris only had about 30,000 inhabitants each.

For those not up on their Spanish, Mesa Verde means green table, which is very apropos, as most of the park is a large, forested plateau. Most of Mesa Verde is situated in mountain valleys and sometimes it can be arduous hiking through the thinner air. One viewpoint in the park is over 2600 m (8500 feet) high! Being that it is at a higher elevation, the weather tends to be warm in the afternoons, and cool in the morning and evening.

While the park is open all year long, certain sights close in early September for the winter. After Labour Day, Weatherill Mesa closes for the winter, opening again in May on Memorial Day.

For more info on this amazing national park, check out the website;

Favourite spots:
The Cliff Palace up close
The Cliff Palace up close
The Cliff Palace ruins are by far the largest and most amazing sight in the entire park. Tours of this sight are led by Park Rangers and the cost is $2.75 per person, no matter the age. This one-hour tour can be strenuous for some, as you descend from the plateau down into the valley, and then have to make your way back up after the tour, climbing about 30m (100 ft) on a series of ladders.

What's really great:
A petroglyph inside one of the buildings at Cliff Palace
A petroglyph inside one of the buildings at Cliff Palace
The area is quite rugged and it is incredible to see these amazing buildings that aboriginals built over a 1000 years ago without heavy machinery or even draft animals. The adobes and cliff dwellings are incredibly extensive and well built.

Spruce Tree House
Spruce Tree House
There are many sights worth seeing in Mesa Verde. The Balcony House is very interesting. Just to get to it, you’ll have to climb a 10 m (32-feet) ladder and crawl through a 4 m (12 feet) long tunnel only 1.5 m (46 inches) wide. On your way out, you’ll need to climb two more 3 m (10-feet) tall ladders.

Another interesting spot is Spruce Tree House. Once again, the hike involves some climbing, as again the starting point is on top of the mesa. You’ll have to walk down into the valley, but when you get there it is quite worth it.

The best part about this sight is the kiva that you are allowed to climb down into. Kivas were chambers in which shaman worked to divine the spirits or forecast the future. After descending about 3 m (10 feet) into the darkness, you are in the heart of an ancient kiva.

The incredible view from Park Point.
The incredible view from Park Point.
There are tons of places to stay in the Cortez area.

The Far View Lodge is located in the park near the Farview Ranger station. The Best Western Turquiose Inn in the town of Cortez is fantastic. It has a pool and free breakfast and sometimes the rates can be very affordable.

When I went, we camped instead of staying in a hotel. The Morefield Campground is right in Mesa Verde Park, and offers basic services. If you are traveling with a RV or trailer, you will need to stay somewhere else.

If you are looking for a little more in the way of comforts, I suggest the A&A Mesa Verde Campground. It is located directly across the highway from the national park entrance. It has RV and tent sites, as well as a nice pool and hot tub and a rec center filled with games, a large TV/VCR, and a toaster oven. My buddy and I made ourselves pizza for dinner one night. Yummy!

Believe it or not this is a painting!
Believe it or not this is a painting!
Sights II

While visiting the park, a ranger told me that every year, forest fires expose more and more archeological sites to them. The public is actually allowed to see only about 2% of all the sites in the park!

At Park Point, you can look down into the valley below from one of the highest spots in the park, at over 2600 m!

The museum near the park HQ is worth a visit too. It has exhibits and explains the history of the people living here, from their humble beginnings in about 500 AD to 1300 AD when they were forced to abandon Mesa Verde due to drought.

There are also hiking trails throughout the park, from short one hour trips to longer overnight ones.

The tourist information office in Cortez is quite humorous, as it has been painted to resemble a cliff dwelling. The artist did a great job, but it is more funny than anything else.

Other recommendations:
Aztec Monument in nearby Aztec, NM
Aztec Monument in nearby Aztec, NM
Within a 2-3 hour drive of Cortez, there are several other major ruins similar to those found in Mesa Verde. These include; Aztec National monument in Aztec, NM, Chaco Canyon National Historic park near Nageezi, NM, and Canyon de Chelly near Chinle, AZ. All of them are spectacular and worth a visit. If you enjoy Mesa Verde, you’ll need to spend at least a week here driving around, checking them all out. Of these, Canyon de Chelly and Chaco Canyon are the two biggest sites.

Farther to the southwest, between Flagstaff and Phoenix are Montezuma National Monument and Tuzigoot National Monument. Montezuma is a cliff dwelling built high in a cliff and is close to I-17, while Tuzigoot is only 15 minutes by car away and built on a large hill and overlooks the surrounding valley.

Also in the area is the well-known Four Corners monument, whereby it is possible to stand at the geographic junction of four US states.

Published on Tuesday February 22th, 2005

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Sun, Oct 30 2005 - 03:00 PM rating by isaacmolina

this report is very interesting for us, spanish people

Tue, Mar 01 2005 - 07:06 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

nice report with great pictures

Wed, Feb 23 2005 - 07:07 PM rating by spaceout

This is a great report. Wow. We'll definitely add this place to our very long lists of place to visit. Talk to you soon

Wed, Feb 23 2005 - 12:43 PM rating by bear495

Nicely done. Keep on bringing this quality of report.


Tue, Feb 22 2005 - 11:58 AM rating by davidx

Most interesting and informative
Cheers, David

Tue, Feb 22 2005 - 11:49 AM rating by mistybleu


Another great report.

I mentioned Montezuma and Tuzigoot National Monuments in my report on the Flagstaff, but I believe these dates back before the Aztecs, as there was some confusion about the dates which is how it got its name. But I didn't know how extensive the area was and how far these ruins extended. This has brought a new insight.


Tue, Feb 22 2005 - 11:33 AM rating by rangutan

Increadible - never heard of that before, in the heart of the USA. Mexico and South America, yes. I now realize that the US's pre-history does not only envolve red indians roaming the prairies. Mention of this great civilization lacks in a lot in US history and travel books, they always start at 1492, even #1 best seller "World Almanac"! Thanks.

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