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

    Mesa Verde

    National Park Colorado

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?

Photograph of Cliff Palace, 1895 - 1900 by WH Jackson

On a snowy December day in 1888, while ranchers Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason searched Mesa Verde’s canyons for stray cattle, they unexpectedly came upon Cliff Palace for the first time. The following year, the Wetherill brothers and Mason explored an additional 182 cliff dwellings.