Scenic USA - Colorado

Spruce Tree House

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Spruce Tree House - Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado

Photo by Ben Prepelka
Inset photos courtesy of NPS

     Colorado's Southwest Region is not only home to magnificent Rocky Mountain scenery in the San Juan Mountains, but it's also a land of mystery, Spruce Tree House Close-up - Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado where desert canyons were able to hide its ancient cities for centuries. In 1859, the San Juan Exploring Expedition, accompanied by geologist Dr. John S. Newberry, were the first to officially place the name Mesa Verde on the area. Although there was no mention of archeological sites during the early expedition, photographer William Henry Wetherills at the Spruce Tree House in 1891 - Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado Jackson arrived in Mesa Verde 20 years later and became the first to photograph a cliff dwelling. While looking for stray cattle, the site was rediscovered in December 1888 by Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law, Charles Mason. Wetherill made repeated trips back to the Mesa Verde area, exploring a reported 182 cliff dwellings. Richard Wetherill's father, Benjamin, made several appeals to the Smithsonian Institute, stongly suggesting the site should be made a national park. During the period from 1888 and 1892, the Wetherill digs produced at least eight individual collections of Mesa Verde artifacts. His first collection, nearly 1300 pieces, were eventually sold to the Colorado Historical Society for 3000 dollars. On June 29, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park with the idea of preserving the works of man, the first national park of its kind. Weasel - Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado
     Spruce Tree House, one of the most popular stops in Mesa Verde National Park, was home to ancestral Puebloan people for nearly eight centuries. While ninety percent of Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings contain 10 rooms or less, Spruce Tree House is made up of 130 rooms and eight kivas (ceremonial chambers), built into a recess that measures 216 feet across and nearly 90 feet high. Once called Anasazi, Western Tanager - Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado these early American Natives lived and farmed on the mesa, spending much of their time gathering food. Today, visitors may descend a winding path to the natural sandstone shelter, one of the easiest cliff dwellings to access. Among some of the best preserved dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, Spruce Tree House may be exlored by a self-guided tour from early March to early November. Rangers remain on duty to answer any questions. During the winter months, free ranger-guided tours are offered three times a day. Balcony House - Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez, Colorado
     In the park there are a dozen preserved cliff dwellings and archaeological wonders built spread throughout its scenic canyons. Other dwelling tours are much more challenging to view than Spruce Tree House. Some are located high in the cliffs and require access by way of tall wooden ladders. At the Balcony House observers must climb a 32 foot ladder and crawl through a tunnel for a close up view, adding plenty of adventure for this cliff dwelling tour.

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