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Movement Along Fault Line Threatening Cliff Palace At Mesa Verde National Park


Movement along a fault line is causing problems at Cliff Palace in Mesa Verde National Park, where the walls of a kiva are leaning in and officials are using bracing to support it. The bottom photo shows were crews have installed cap stones to divert water away from the kiva. NPS photos.

Some 800 years after it was built within an alcove in southern Colorado, a section of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park is being threatened by a fault that is damaging the iconic cliff ruin.

Park officials say the fault line runs parallel to the back wall of Cliff Palace and is threatening Kiva F and the southern half of Cliff Palace.

"Kiva F, a 13th century circular structure located in the southern portion of the alcove, is one of the key components of the Cliff Palace tour. Workers are shoring up the iconic kiva with wooden braces while archeologists evaluate the damage and make plans to stabilize the site," park officials said.

As the centerpiece of Mesa Verde, Cliff Palace is visited by approximately 160,000 visitors per year. The dwelling was discovered in the late 1800s and remains one of the finest examples of late prehistoric cliff dwellings in the American Southwest.

"Park archeologists first noticed a small crack in the masonry and then discovered the north wall was leaning precariously into the structure. After months of study, it now appears that the localized deterioration of individual structures and features and site-wide problems are working together," a park release said. "Much of the architecture in the southern portion of Cliff Palace is footed onto small, irregularly shaped roof slabs across a steeply pitched alcove floor. Over time, these structures have begun to slide downslope. Water entering the alcove through cracks on the mesa top above Cliff Palace has also been a long-standing problem."

Cliff Palace remains open for tours while restoration plans are under way and runoff water is rerouted. Archeologists have roped off Kiva F to tours and continue to evaluate and monitor the site.

“Cliff Place is important to the history of the area, it’s a sacred site for our tribes and it’s important to the economy of the area as well.” said Mesa Verde Superintendent Cliff Spencer. “We are working toward a solution to stabilize Kiva F and Cliff Palace itself.”

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