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Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde
Designation National Park
Location South West Colorado, United States
Nearest City Cortez, Colorado
Area 52,122 acres
21,093 ha
Date of Establishment June 29, 1906
Visitation 411,399 (2002)
Governing Body National Park Service
IUCN category II (National Park)

Mesa Verde National Park is a United States National Park, located in southwest Colorado. Meaning "green table" in Spanish, Mesa Verde covers an area of 81.4 mi˛ (211 km˛). The park entrance is located about 9 miles (15 km) east of the town of Cortez. The visitors center is 15 miles from the entrance, and Chapin Mesa (the most popular area) is another 6 miles (10 km)past the visitors center.


It is best known for a large number of well-preserved cliff dwellings, houses built in shallow caves along the canyon walls. From the 6th to the 14th century, the Ancient Puebloan Indians lived in these dwellings. You can learn more about how they lived in the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum in the park.

Three of the cliff dwellings on Chapin Mesa are open to the public. Spruce Tree House is open all year (weather permitting). Balcony House and Cliff Palace are open spring through fall and may be visited via a ranger guided tour. Wetherill Mesa also has cliff dwellings, Long House, and Step House. There are other dwellings that can be seen from the road, but can not be accessed. Check at the visitors center for tour times and costs.

In addition to the cliff dwellings, Mesa Verde boasts a number of mesa-top ruins. Examples open to public access include the Far View Complex, Cedar Tree Tower, and the Sun Temple on Chapin Mesa and Badger House Community on Wetherill Mesa.

There are also hiking trails, a campground and food/gasoline/lodging (early spring through late fall only) in the park.


The area was established as a national park June 29, 1906. It was designated a World Heritage Site September 6, 1978. In the 2002 summer, the park, which is covered with forest, suffered from a large number of forest fires, and parts of the park had to be closed down. All areas of the park have since re-opened, but some areas show significant damage from the fire. The Mesa Verde Reservoirs, built by the Ancient Puebloans were named as a National Civil Engineering Historic Landmark September 26, 2004.

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Last updated: 05-07-2005 05:01:36
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04