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 each one.


Cliff House

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.

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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



Balcony House

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 elements.

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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.

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Note the keyhole alcove in the kiva.

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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.