Manitou Cliff Dwellings 101: What You Need To Know Before You Go!

The Manitou Cliff Dwellings are a great day-adventure for the entire family! Don’t have time to drive down to the southwest near Durango, CO to see the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park? In Manitou, you can find the 40-room site from the Mesa Verde area that was dismantled, rebuilt and preserved during a time in American history when preservation laws were in the beginning stages and private buyers were attempting to protect what was left of these historic sites. It’s a great place to learn the history of these ancient native peoples.

  1. Cliff dwellings are stone houses, villages and sometimes entire towns built in caves or on large rock shelves along steep rock canyon walls.
  2. The dwellings were originally from southwest Colorado, near Mesa Verde National Park. A private owner moved them here to preserve and protect them from vandals and looters.
  3. The 40 room ruins were dismantled, stone by stone, labeled and packaged for transport via oxen, rail and horse.
  4. Blueprints had to be made of the original ruins so that they could be restored properly. It took three years for this restoration to take place.
  5. “Anasazi” is a type of description for the pre-Hispanic people of the Four Corners Region. It comes from the mispronunciation of a Navajo word that means, “ancient enemies”, “ancient ancestors” and/or “ancient non-Navajos”. A word that carries some distention in contemporary culture, the term “Anasazi ruins” can be replaced with “Ancestral Puebloan ruins” if one prefers.
  6. Unlike with some of the ruins down in the southwest region, visitors are encouraged to walk through the structures and touch everything! It’s called their “Please Touch” policy.
  7. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings preserve opened to the public in 1907 with park visionary, Virginia McClurg at the helm. Private buyers like McClurg worked to ensure the safety and conservation of these sites prior to the 1906 Antiquities Act, when the Federal Government started getting involved in the preservation of historic sites like the Manitou Cliff Dwellings.