Mesa Verde, Colorado
At the visitor centers, be sure to get tickets for Cliff House and/or
Balconey House as soon as you get there. These fill up early. See below for details of
Cliff House is one of the most picturesque and photographed ruins in the
park. A moderately strenuous descent down stairs with short narrow ladders and steps to
exit. The classic photo below is taken from the wheel chair accessible overlook. The
following picture with people in it helps set a scale.
Close Up of Kiva Used for Religious Rituals
Kivas are still used by modern Pueblo Indians. They are covered and entry
is through a ladder in the center. The fire pit is in the center. The hole on the left is
a air intake and the low wall is a deflector to distribute fresh air around the interior.
The Mesa Verde Kivas are unique in having a keyhole rather than strictly circular design.
No one knows the reason for the added keyhole alcove.
Cliff House Viewed Across Canyon from Temple of the Sun
If you have acrophobia or agoraphobia, run, do not walk, to the nearest
exit. They will show you pictures in the visitors center before they sell you tickets, and
the Park Ranger will go over the gruesome details again before you start. Balcony house
involves strenuous climbs up ladders with sheer drops to the canyon floor below, a
traverse through narrow unlite crevasse, and a crawl through a tunnel that is only
18" wide and not much higher. I'm not a particular large man and my shoulders rubbed
against both walls of the narrow passage unless I tilted myself diagonal. But is it worth
it! Fascinating structures and history as related by the Ranger.
Notice the craftsmanship. Their wall are made out of ROCK, not
clay. So each rock had to be shaped to fit with nice square corners and flat faces.
The wood you see is original equipment-- 800 or 900 years old. Its excellent state of
preservation is due to the dry climate and the overhang which protects it from the
Below note the footholds (arrows). The Anasazi rarely used ladders but
generally scaled the shear cliffs using tiny (much, much smaller than the anthropologist
enlarged ones shown here) footholds. For size comparison, the men were about 5"5' and
the women about 5'. This is essentially the same size as Europeans at the same time.
Note the keyhole alcove in the kiva.
Spruce Tree House
This impressive ruins is near the museum at the mesa. It is an easy
walk (only the first part is a little steep) and is wheel chair accessible. I don't have a
photo, so below is an artist's rendition.