• View of Square Tower House, seen along the Mesa Top Loop

    Mesa Verde

    National Park Colorado

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  • Fire Restrictions in Effect

    Due to recent hot, dry, and windy conditions, the park is currently at very high fire danger. The following fire restrictions are in effect: No open fires are permitted anywhere within the park. Smoking is only permitted inside an enclosed vehicle. More »

Post Fire New Site Survey

View of Spruce Tree House cliff dwelling with red slurry on mesa top above site.
Spruce Tree House after the Long Mesa Fire of 2002. Fire retardant dropped during suppression efforts stained the sandstone above the alcove.
NPS Photo
 

As a result of recent large wildfires, Post-Fire Site Survey projects have occurred 10 out of the past 12 years. A total of 682 new archeological sites were discovered and recorded during the surveys. Archeologists have discovered that the Ancestral Puebloans were even more successful farmers than originally believed. Post-fire surveys have led to the recordation of many more check dams and water control features than in previous surveys. These features typically consist of retaining walls placed on slopes in order to direct water to catchment features or to agricultural plots.

After each wildfire, teams of archeologists survey the fire areas and assess, document, and treat previously recorded and newly discovered sites. Treatment methods include reseeding to promote vegetation growth, placement of erosion control features such as log diverters to direct water away from sites, and the installation of silicone driplines in cliff dwellings.

For more information on how past wildfires have affected the park’s cultural resources and the archeological response, go to Archeology and Fire. (pdf, 244 kb)

 
Images of vessel discovered after fire, and matting used to protect sites from erosion.
Left: An intact vessel discovered after the Pony Fire of 2000. Right: Natural matting was used to slow soil and water erosion and to promote re-vegetation.
NPS Photo
 
Fire damaged Mushroom House, and the application of silicone driplines to prevent further damage from water runoff.
Left: Mushroom House was severely impacted by the 2000 Pony Fire. Right: Silicone driplines were used to direct water away from the standing architecture and archeological features.
NPS Photo

Did You Know?

Cliff Palace in the snow

Cliff Palace is the largest cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde National Park. It has 150 rooms, plus an additional 75 open areas. Twenty-one of the rooms are kivas, and 25 to 30 rooms have residential features. The number of Ancestral Puebloans living in Cliff Palace at any one time was 100 to 120.