Park History

Park History


Stepping Back in Time

On June 29, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park to "preserve the works of man," the first national park of its kind. Today, the continued preservation of both cultural and natural resources is the focus of the park's research and resource management staff.

Mesa Verde National Park (Spanish for green table) was established to preserve archaeological sites built by the Ancestral Puebloans who inhabited Mesa Verde for more than 700 years (550 A.D. to 1300 A.D.). Currently Mesa Verde has over 4,700 archaeological sites including 600 cliff dwellings and the mesa top sites of pithouses, pueblos, masonry towers, and farming structures, with many more yet to be revealed. These sites are some of the most notable and best-preserved dwellings in the United States. For the first six centuries, they primarily lived on the mesa tops. It was not until the final 75 to 100 years that they constructed and lived in the cliff dwellings for which Mesa Verde is best known.

Mesa Verde National Park offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Puebloans, a group of people living in the Four Corners region who chose Mesa Verde for their home. For more than 700 years they and their descendants lived and flourished in this region, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. Then, in the late A.D. 1200s, in the span of a generation or two, they left their homes and moved away.

Mesa Verde National Park Timeline

The cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde are some of the most notable and best-preserved ruins in the North American continent. Sometime during the late 1190s, after primarily living on the mesa top for 600 years, many Ancestral Puebloans began living in pueblos they built beneath the overhanging cliffs. The structures ranged in size from one-room storage units to villages of more than 150 rooms. While still farming the mesa tops, they continued to reside in the alcoves, repairing, remodeling, and constructing new rooms for nearly a century. By the late 1270s, the population began migrating south into present-day New Mexico and Arizona. By 1300, the Ancestral Puebloan occupation of Mesa Verde ended.

Discover the wonder and grandeur of this one-of-a-kind place for yourself, with a guided interpretive tour.

For your reading pleasure, please enjoy our Mesa Verde National Park History Synopsis, a graphical representation of the park timeline, and a list of the Mesa Verde 24 Associated Tribes. 

History Synopsis

Associated Tribes