With our route change, we had gained the opportunity to return to Mesa Verde National Park. We had spent one afternoon here back in May. We had been at Black Canyon of the Gunnison and we were snowed out, so we took a day trip. I had told Bear that when we returned, I would want at least three days to further explore the park. Well, we got it and it was wonderful!
Mesa Verde is a real archeological treasure. It is the largest collection of cliff dwellings and has examples of the architectural steps it took to get from the mesa top to the cliffs. As you enter the park, there is a great visitor center that can orient you to the layout of the park and the cultural history. There is even an archeological lab that you can peer into. (Photos are from our previous trip, we were lazy and didn’t drive out to it!)
There is another museum on the Mesa which is the Archeological Museum. There are wonderful dioramas detailing the different archeological periods of the ancient peubloans. Many of the artifacts found in the park are on display here, and it was a thrill to see them! Our favorite factoid: alarm turkeys! Apparently, turkeys were kept for food, company, and alarm systems!
The drive up the Mesa is quite pretty, there are great sweeping views and some scary turns. We stayed at the campground in the park, which was comfortable and convenient for exploring the park. There were a few trails nearby, good for an afternoon walk.
We took two days for sightseeing, which is most driving from place to place. There are pamphlets for self guided tours available. Usually a small donation is asked for. We visited the Mesa Top sites, which included several versions of the early dwellings, pit houses, and some pueblos.
There are, of course, a few stops which overlook the cliff dwellings. These are quite impressive, but hard to photograph in the wrong light! (I cheated with some filters!) You can also get tours of these and go into some of them! A treat we saved for the next time we come through.
We also stopped at the Far View site, which is a Pueblo City and was a really incredible stop. There are a few things to see here, including the cities and the reservoir. This part really reminded me of ruins I’ve seen throughout Europe!
The girls enjoyed learning about and seeing the varied of archeological sites and artifacts. The park is the only park (or maybe the first?) purely dedicated to preserving cultural history and it’s very easy to see why! We still haven’ seen everything to see, so we’ll swing by again sometime.