Mesa Verde National Park was the first national park designated for its cultural
resources. It preserves an area occupied by the Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi) people
from the 6th through 13th centuries, and is world renowned for its amazing cliff
dwellings. The reasons (such as protection) why the pueblo people chose to live in cliffs during the
last half of the 13th century can never be known for certain, and has always
been a topic for lively debate.
Balcony House (right) may be visited only by a ranger-led tour. This adventuresome tour
allows the visitor to experience a taste of what the orginal inhabitants experienced
in that access and egress is accomplished by ladders and stone steps carved
into the cliff. Also, it is one of the few places where a dwelling has a preserved
Access (left) to Balcony House is by a 32 foot ladder at the right end of
the dwelling. Exiting the ruin (above) is to the left, crawling behind the huge
boulder (see picture at top) then climbing 60 feet up the cliff face on steps
carved into the cliff and finally another ladder near the top.
The tour is not for those who fear heights or tight places. Also, the high
elevation (about 8,000 feet) makes the climbing somewhat strenuous.
Balcony House is named for the remnants of a balcony on this building.
Structures such as this balcony as well as roofs and upper floors were
generally built with thin logs and branches covered by adobe. They
deteriorated much more quickly than brick walls and are therefore rarely seen today.
The round objects in front of the buildings are remnants of kivas. They are
chambers about eight feet deep and were originally covered over with an opening
in the center for access. Kivas were thought to be community gathering places
for religious ceremonies.