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But why did they leave?

Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde National Park seems to produce as many questions as answers, as many wonderments as fatigue.

Located in southwest Colorado, Mesa Verde is desert, canyons and yawning irrigated valleys. The real draw to the park are the pueblo Indian ruins, dating from around 500 to 1300 AD. Imagine looking out across miles and miles of desert landscape, never suspecting that just beneath that sandstone overhang ahead of you are the ruins of an entire village of Indian pueblos.

We toured the Cliff Palace and the Balcony House with a guide --in fact, you must do these with a guide, just $3 per person each tour. The Spruce Tree House, the largest of the three, is a self-guided site, with no fee required. Any one of these sites gave me insights into the lives of the inhabitants around 1200AD:

A people very dependent on the land for all their needs...
Perhaps among the first North American Indians to cultivate corn, as well as beans and squash, thus allowing them to settle in one place instead of following a nomadic lifestyle...
An industrious people, to build extensive adobe-brick homes and community rooms (kivas) in the shelter and security of a huge sandstone cliff...
And the question, still unanswered definitely, why they seem to have disappeared so totally from this region by 1300 AD.

The national park service does a wonderful job of helping people explore these ruins. We climbed down steps and ladders to reach both the Balcony House and the Cliff Palace, and crawled, literally, through passages just big enough to squeeze through, to reach some of the structures. Tiring, yes, but well worth the effort, even on a warm autumn day.

A personal note: this park was high on our "bucket list," so with a government shut-down looming, we made sure to get into the ruins the last day of September. Sure enough, if we'd been one day later, everything would have been closed. Stupid Congress!

Posted by Joyful Feet 20:18 Archived in USA Tagged colorado mesa_verde_national_park indian_pueblos

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