What is a mesa?

The word mesa is Spanish for “table.” A mesa is a raised landform that is flat on the top, and has steep or sloping sides. A plateau is similar, but much larger. Verde is Spanish for "green."

About AD 1300, after more than seven centuries of successfully living in Mesa Verde, the Ancestral Pueblo people left the area. Although the reason for their departure remains a mystery, there are several theories.

Research provides evidence for one theory that suggests by the 1200s, it had become increasingly difficult for the people of Mesa Verde to find what they needed to survive. By way of over-hunting the area, a 23 year drought, and depletion of the mesa top's soil fertility due to centuries of farming- further reducing their ability to grow crops. The human population living in Mesa Verde in the 13th century may have become too large for the environment to sustain.

While some believe that poor conditions forced the Ancestral Pueblo people to leave Mesa Verde, the traditions of their descendants tell a different story. Oral history chronicles state the Ancestral Pueblo people to be on a continual journey-  It was simply time for them to move on.

Whatever the motivation, it is clear that the Ancestral Pueblo people did not disappear. They migrated south. Today their descendants: the Hopi, Zuni, Acoma, and other Rio Grande Pueblo people live in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas

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Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde’s best-preserved cliff dwelling

Dwelling remnants in surrounding alcoves

The park contains several mesas rising nearly 800 feet above the surrounding valley. Mesa Verde’s 52,000 acres contain nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. The archeological sites found in Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde’s largest cliff dwelling

Prickly Pear Cactus

This cactus is an excellent food source. Once the spines are removed, the pads can be eaten either raw or baked. The purple fruits are a sweet and juicy treat that today is made into jellies, wines, and sauces

The tour guide (right) made this tour very interesting

Illustrated scene of Ancestral Puebloan life in Spruce Tree House, ca. 1250s.

Keep scrolling down for more pics of the trip

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Making the journey...

Pagosa Country

Four Corners

Ship Rock

BINGO Hall, Ute Mountain Casino