Mesa Verde National Park

Return to Park Gallery

Mesa Verde National Park is located in the southwest corner of Colorado. "Mesa Verde," in Spanish, is "Green Table," in English, which describes its appearance as a high plateau capped by green pinion and juniper pine trees.

A 750-year period of habitation of Mesa Verde began with the Basketmakers in around 550 A. D. These hunters and gathers constructed pit houses primarily on the mesa top and established a primarily agrarian society. After about 200 years, baskets were replaced by pottery and houses were constructed with sticks and mud above ground with pit houses transformed to kivas, taking on a ceremonial role. These people were given the name Puebloans meaning "village dwellers" by the Spanish. Today, the historic occupants of Mesa Verde are referred to as Ancestral Puebloans. Two and a half centuries later, their construction techniques advanced to stone masonry consisting of buildings from two to three stories in height with 50 or more rooms and agricultural activities increased. By 1100 AD, the population had reached several thousand. But 100 years later, for unknown reasons, they moved from the extensive villages on the top of the mesa to new dwellings constructed in alcoves of the mesa canyons occupied by their ancestors centuries before. Due to the partial shelter provided by the alcoves and the reduced accessibility of the cliff faces, the best preserved of the ruins of Mesa Verde such as Cliff House, Spruce Tree House, and Square Tower House lie in these locations today. By late in the 13th century, these dwellings were abandoned for reasons unknown, with the inhabitants moving to other locations. Today, their descendants include the Hopi in Arizona and numerous pueblos in New Mexico.

The content of this gallery includes well known sites such as Cliff House, Spruce Tree House and Square Tower House. The last nine images are from the 2.4 mile Petroglyph Point Trail. This trail begins at the Spruce Tree House and, along the portion of it below the canyon rim, contains many interesting geologic features. The petroglyph is midway along the trail and is strategically located below a triangular ledge, projecting from the cliff above, protecting it.