This park was created in 1906 for the preservation of the archeological history of the Ancestral Puebloans. The park is probably best know for the 600 cliff dwellings found here, however they are only a small part of the 4500 archeological sites in the park. Needless to say, we didn't see them all! :)
Russ & Pat
Our main reason for coming to the park were the cliff dwellings. This has been the stop that Randy has been looking forward to during this trip. I have to say - the dwellings didn't disappoint any of us. The dwellings were actually found by accident - in the 1880s, local cowboys were riding along the mesa and looked over and saw them. Some of the earliest dwellings date from AD550, with the last ones being built around AD1100. By AD1300, they were deserted. Since there is no written documentation on the people who lived here, archeologists can only speculate on the reasons they left.
Our first stop was a tour of Cliff Palace, the largest of the cliff dwellings in the park. To tour Cliff Palace you only have to walk 1/4 of a mile, but that involves climbing five 8 to 10 foot ladders. Eventually you climb 100 feet. I have to say the ladders were a bit intimidating to me, but I was assured by a ranger that the height issue wouldn't be much. He was right, but it was still daunting.
One of the several ladders we had to climb
Looking back at Cliff PalaceThese structures are absolutely amazing. What you see is what was there originally. Yes, there is some restoration, but 90% of the structures are original materials. The people lived in the dwellings and farmed on the mesa tops. Their crops were corn, beans, and squash. They also hunted game.
Another one of the largest villages in the park is Spruce Tree House. It had 129 rooms and eight kivas. Sixty to ninety people could have lived here at any one time.
A look at Spruce Tree House from a half mile away
A kiva is a room that was basically undergound and used as gathering places. You enter a kiva through a hole in the roof via a ladder. Randy & Russ went down into one at Spruce Tree House. The temperature in the room was 50 degrees.
Entry to the kivaWe also drove along the Mesa Top Loop where the ruins of other structures could be found - pithouses, pueblo villages, and the Sun Temple. The Sun Temple was never finished and again there is no documentation so it is unknown what its use was.
We had an absolutely phenomenal day. I cannot tell you the emotions I felt walking into Cliff Palace. I know I'm a goober, but to walk where a civilization lived, worked and played almost 1000 years ago and now doesn't even exist, is overwhelming to me. The closest descendants to these people are the Pueblo Indian Tribe. It truly touched my heart.
Our day ended with a great dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. I had planned to make dinner for the four of us, but I wimped out after such a big day. Thankfully, Russ & Pat were gracious enough not to give me too much grief over reneging on dinner. :)
Tomorrow we drive down to Durango to meet Russ & Pat for a ride on the Durango-Silverton train. Not sure what we'll see, but I'll be sure to share it with you!
There are lots more pictures on our Webshots site. Be sure to check them out. Until the next time . . .