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Mesa Verde National Park

by Antonia Legeland


Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park, located in the southwestern corner of Colorado, is a fascinating destination that offers visitors a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the American Southwest. The park is home to some of the most well-preserved archaeological sites in North America, with over 5,000 known sites.
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt made Mesa Verde National Park the first national park created to protect the "works of man". Mesa Verde, which means "green table" in Spanish, is home to over 4,700 archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, pithouses, pueblos, towers, and farming structures. These sites are some of the most notable and well-preserved in the United States.
Mesa Verde National Park offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans, a group of people living in the Four Corners region who chose Mesa Verde for their home. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished in this region, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered niches of the canyon walls. Then, in the late A.D. 1200s, in the span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away.
Explore the Park
Visitors to Mesa Verde National Park can explore these ancient sites through a variety of guided tours and self-guided hikes, which offer a unique opportunity to learn about the daily lives, customs, and traditions of the Ancestral Puebloans. Some of the most popular sites in the park include the Cliff Palace, the Balcony House, and the Long House, which are all incredible examples of the impressive engineering skills and artistic achievements of the ancient Native Americans who once lived there.
The Pueblo people in the North American Southwest crafted a unique architecture that even included planned community spaces. Hundreds to thousands of people lived in these communities. These complexes hosted cultural and civic events and infrastructure that supported a vast outlying region hundreds of miles away linked by transportation roadways. The Puebloans therefore constituted an ancient high culture, which goes against widely-spread views on Native Americans as primitive peoples. By visiting the park, visitors can gain a deeper understanding of the ways in which these ancient people adapted to their environment and developed complex societies and cultures that lasted for centuries.
In addition to exploring the archaeological sites, visitors to Mesa Verde National Park can also enjoy a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and wildlife watching. The park is home to a diverse array of typically American flora and fauna, including elk, deer, coyotes, and black bears, as well as a variety of birds and reptiles.
For thousands of years, people have traveled across this landscape of gentle flat-topped hills, wide views, and rough, deep valleys. Today, you can follow in their footsteps by exploring nearly 30 miles of park trails. Please be safe, know your limits, and visit with respect.