Mesa Verde National Park

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Mesa Verde National Park
IUCN Category II (National Park)
Mesa Verde National Park
Location: Colorado, USA
Nearest City: Cortez, CO
Coordinates: 37° 15′ 0″ N, 108° 27′ 0″ W
Area: 52,121.93 acres
  (51,890.65 federal)
21,093.03 hectares
Established: June 29, 1906
Visitation: 446,811 (in 2004)
Governing Body: National Park Service

Mesa Verde National Park is a national park, located in southwest Colorado. Meaning "green table" in Spanish, Mesa Verde covers an area of 81.4 mi² (211 km²). The park entrance is located about nine miles (15 km) east of the town of Cortez. The visitors center is 15 miles from the entrance, and Chapin Mesa (the most popular area) is another six miles (10 km) past the visitor center.



Mesa Verde is best known for a large number of well preserved cliff dwellings, houses built in shallow caves along the canyon walls. From the 11th to the 13th century ("Classic Period"), the Ancient Puebloan Indians lived in these dwellings. The reason for their sudden departure towards the end of the 13th century remains unexplained, presumptions ranging from crop failures due to droughts to an intrusion of foreign tribes from the North. The park's Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum provides information about the Ancient Puebloan civilization and displays findings and artwork.

Cliff Palace
Cliff Palace

Three of the cliff dwellings on Chapin Mesa are open to the public. Spruce Tree House is open all year (weather permitting). Balcony House and Cliff Palace are open spring through fall and may be visited via a ranger guided tour. Wetherill Mesa also has cliff dwellings, Long House, and Step House. There are other dwellings that can be seen from the road, but can not be accessed. Check at the visitors center for tour times and costs.

In addition to the cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde boasts a number of mesa-top ruins. Examples open to public access include the Far View Complex, Cedar Tree Tower, and the Sun Temple on Chapin Mesa and Badger House Community on Wetherill Mesa.

There are also hiking trails, a campground and food/gasoline/lodging (early spring through late fall only) in the park.


The Mesa Verde ruins were first studied by Gustaf Nordenskiöld (the son of the polar explorer Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld) in 1891.

The area was established as a national park June 29, 1906. As with all historical areas administered by the National Park Service, the park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966. It was designated a World Heritage Site September 6, 1978.

The Mesa Verde Administrative District was designated a National Historic Landmark on May 29, 1987. It consists of the first buildings constructed by the National Park Service (1921) based on cultural traditions represented in the park area. The principal designer believed that structures could be used for interpretive purposes to explain the construction of prehistoric dwellings in the Park, and be compatible with their natural and cultural setting.

In the 2002 summer, the park, which is covered with forest, suffered from a large number of forest fires, and parts of the park had to be closed down. All areas of the park have since re-opened, but some areas show significant damage from the fire. The Mesa Verde Reservoirs, built by the Ancient Puebloans were named as a National Civil Engineering Historic Landmark on September 26, 2004.

See also

External links

National Parks of the United States

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