Today we drove to Mesa Verde National Park, created in 1906 to preserve the archeological heritage of the American Pueblo people. The Park includes over 4,500 archeological sites; only 600 are cliff dwellings and we took a tour through one of them, Balcony House. This is one of the best preserved sites in the Park.
Balcony House and Cliff Palace
The builders of Balcony House are known as Ancestral Pueblo people, beginning about A.D. 1200, many chose to build their homes in the cliff-side alcoves. We started at the top of the cliff and walked down several flights of steel stairs with great views looking down into the Soda Canyon; and Balcony House is built 600 feet above the Canyon floor. We entered Balcony House at the north end of the site by climbing a stout double ladder, there are 38 rooms and 2 kivas. We reached the large balcony, an alcove 39 feet deep and 20 feet high with a retaining wall running along the entire front of the alcove. We climbed a short ladder and through a narrow opening to the Kiva Plaza, where there are two deep kivas side by side in the center of the site. To exit this dwelling we had to pass through the 12 foot long tunnel and 2 feet tall. The original residents of Balcony House entered through this tunnel. It was a little tight for Bob to pass through but he managed after some maneuvering.
Cliff Palace,the crown jewel of Mesa Verde National Park and an archeological masterpiece by any standard, is the largest cliff dwelling in North America. In 1888, two Cowboys, Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason, chanced upon Cliff Palace while they were out herding cattle, it looked like “a magnificent city” in the cliffs across the canyon. We drove to the overlook to view the ruins from above, tours were not going down into the area now.