Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park

USA Colorado Mesa Verde national park cliff palace 1
The cliff palace of Mesa Verde National Park.

We spent 11 hours in the Mesa Verde National Park, including driving over 100 miles (160 km) within the park to see many of the cliff dwellings. We went back to many of them twice, so see them in the sun as well as in the shade. The light only hits the dwellings for brief times during the day, when the sun is low, either in the morning or late afternoon. The cliff dwellings were built to shelter their inhabitants, and they do.

Mesa Verde is unique among the US National Parks for its ruins. The cliff dwellings were built by the Ancestral Pueblo Indians between 1100 and 1200 C.E. and were inhabited for only about 100 years. Archeologists theorize that a prolonged drought made it too difficult to live in the already arid Mesa Verde plateau and so the Indians migrated to the south.

As I said, we came back to photograph many of the sites in Mesa Verde more than once, as the light changed. This was shot around 5:30 p.m. as the sun had swung around to the west, illuminating the Cliff Palace, the largest of the 500 cliff ruins within the park. It was so bright, the exposure was somewhat difficult and this required some manipulation to prevent all the highlights from being totally washed out. The site itself is rather a monochromatic tan color, so I thought it might look good in black and white, too. So, here's that, if you're interested. Kris preferred the color. I like the black and white.

USA Colorado Mesa Verde national park cliff palace 1 bw
The same shot as above, rendered in black and white. Do you like it more or less?

See this link for a complete list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States with links to the ones we have visited.

You can see a list here of all the United States National Parks, with links to our stories about the ones we've visited.

Another site of importance to the Pueblo Indian culture is the still-inhabited Taos Pueblo. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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5 thoughts on “Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park”

  1. I saw want to visit Mesa Verde – definitely on our list. We were somewhat in the area in January of this year but just couldn’t get there – weather wasn’t cooperating. One of these days! I find it completely fascinating that the people were so able to adjust to survive the environment.

    • Patti, it’s well worth the long trip. Wouldn’t try it in winter, though. About this time of year is great. Crowds are thinner than in summer, which is a big plus. A ranger told me visits drop by more than 60 percent after Labor Day.

  2. Amazing what the Native Americans accomplished 800 years ago, and perplexing why they would build like this here, then abandon it after only 100 years. Makes me want to read up on this.


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