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High Southwest Adventure Guide
2nd Edition By Steve Cohen. The Adventure Guide to the High Southwest packs a punch for adventurous travelers, offering the thrills and spills of the Four Corners region in fantastic detail. The mammoth canyons, vast deserts and haunting mountains of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico offer a vast canvas on which to paint your own adventure.
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Tour Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde N.P., CO 81330; (303) 529-4465;
Open all year but only on a limited basis during the winter.
This 52,036 acre preserve in the southwestern corner was designated a national parkland in 1906 to protect 4,000 plus ruin sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. Located just 10 miles east of Cortez, this site stands out as the best archeological preserves in the nation.
Mesa Verde is a spanish word for "green table" to symbolize the vast forest covered tableland of the area. A couple dozen large canyons shelter hundreds of alcoves that were home to a major civilization several centuries before the time of Columbus.
The Modified Basket Weavers are the earliest known inhabitants, building subterranean pithouses about AD 500-750. Later more elaborate pueblos were built. Around 1200 AD there was a sudden, yet unexplained, migration towards cliff dwellings. Between 1275 and 1300 a major drought plagued the area and eventually the inhabitants left in search of better water supplies.
Several other nearby national monuments preserve additional ancient indian dwellings:
Primary Features / Scenic points to not miss:
Park Point Fire Lookout: Great vista overlooking all states adjoining the Four Corners region. Off to the distance to the south is visible Shiprock on Navajo Reservation lands in New Mexico.
Park Museum: Several outstanding dioramas portray the various cultures that inhabited this area in succession.
Spruce Tree House: Best preserved and one of the largest cliff dwellings with 114 living rooms - located on Chapin Mesa.
Cliff Palace: Largest and most famous of the cliff dwellings - over 200 rooms, including 23 kivas (ceremonial centers). Some parts rise upto four stories. Located on Chapin Mesa.
Balcony House: Located in a high cave on the west wall of Soda Canyon. Classic display of architectural detail and defensive construction.
Ruins Road Drive: Two 12 mile loops provides views of several cliff dwellings, some with roofs still on even after almost 1000 years.
Square Tower House: Built up against the steep wall of Navajo Canyon, accentuated by a four-story high tower. Not open to public, easily viewed from Ruins Road Drive.
Sun Point Pueblo: Noteworthy ruins where its roofs and walls were tore down by the inhabitants to build a cliff dwelling nearby. Located along Ruins Road Drive.
Sun Temple: Large ceremonial structure built on a promontory overlooking Cliff and Fewkes canyons.
Far View Visitor Center: Located on Wetherill Mesa, home to the second largest concentration of ruins in the park. Regular tour busses take visitors on a 12-mile guided tours.
Hiking Trails: Very popular but restricted activity in the park due to the highly fragile nature of the ruins. Usually a written permit from the rangers office is required. There are also many interesting trails just outside the park. Please note that it is a federal offense to remove, damage or destroy any item of historical significance. Here are is a partial list of major trails:
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