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Wednesday 12 May 2021

Manitou Cliff Dwellings

One thing that you may not know about me, is that I am a huge history buff. Learning about human endeavors from a time gone by just fascinates me. I wanted to be an archeologist when I was a kid and I love nothing more than seeking out historical sites when we travel. History and architecture: they're my two big things. It's partly why I'm a total city girl. I love exploring beautiful natural sites, but it's the mark that humans from eras past have left on this world that truly fascinates me. Historical buildings, ruins, sites where important events happened... these are the things that really inspire me when we travel.

Of course, as an Australian much of my life has been spent living in places where there is a wealth of oral history, but not much in the way of physical history. No historical structures, no temples to ancient gods, no long lost ruins... There are the occasional rock paintings and canoe trees, but Australia is a big country and these permanent historical reminders tend to be far and few between. Plus they tend to be located in rather remote places. When it comes to buildings, anything built in the1800s is considered old back home. Living in California and now Colorado it's pretty much the same. While I do find those Victorian or gold rush era buildings interesting, it's earlier history that really gets me. It's one of the reasons I loved living in Europe so much. I didn't have to look far to find medieval buildings, Roman ruins or prehistoric temples. It was a dream come true! 

With international travel off the table for the foreseeable future I had figured that visiting historical sites would be limited to watching documentaries for now. But then I learned about a historical site right here in Colorado that I couldn't wait to visit. 

Have you heard of the Manitou Cliff Dwellings? Located just near Colorado Springs these reconstructed ancient dwellings built into a red sandstone cliff face were home to the Anasazi over 700 years ago. Much like the more famous cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, these ancient homes serve as a reminder of the long human history in the South West. 

The kids and I visited Manitou Cliff Dwellings over Spring break back in late March and I'm so excited to share our visit with you here on Little Hiccups. 

The Anasazi, also known as Ancestral Puebloans, lived in the Four Corners area of southern Colorado, southern Utah, northern New Mexico and northern Arizona between 1100AD and 1300AD. In this time they built expansive cliff dwellings like the one found at Manitou Springs. Now, the cliff dwellings at Manitou Springs are not actually original to their location, however they are a reconstruction made from a collapsed cliff dwelling site further south in Colorado near the town of Cortez. The stones were moved and the dwellings carefully reconstructed starting in 1904, with the site opened to the public in 1907. 

Visitors to Manitou Cliff Dwellings are encouraged to explore both the exterior and interior of the site on a self guided tour and imagine what life must have been like some 800 years ago. Outside of the dwellings we marveled at the ancient architecture. Inside the girls enjoyed walking through the tunnels that connect the dwellings inside the cliff face and popping out through various doors. It was snowing ever so lightly when we visited (that's what the white dots in some of my photos are) however, inside the cliff dwellings was quite warm and protected from the wind. Some of the dwellings are multi story with access via ladder, however all but one of these (a balcony) are off limits to visitors for safety reasons. 

The cliff dwellings site is also home to a museum that showcases a wealth of archeological finds from the Anasazi including pottery, tools, weapons and even some skulls. You know the skulls were Mathilde's favorite! The museum was built in the Pueblo style common to the South West, with the original rooms constructed in 1898. 

The views over the surrounding area from the Pueblo building are stunning - especially so in the snow. It's such a beautiful part of Colorado with mountains and red rocks galore. 

We had a fun time visiting Manitou Cliff Dwellings and it was great to learn a little history about the Anasazi peoples. 

Manitou Cliff Dwellings are located at 10 Cliff Dwellings Road, Manitou Springs and are open to the public seven days a week year round (closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving). The opening hours vary depending on the season. May through August they are open 9am - 5pm with last entry half an hour before closing. 

Tickets are available for purchase at the gate and are $12 for adults (12 and up), $9 for seniors (60 plus), and $7.50 for children (ages 4 - 11). Children 3 and under are admitted free of charge.  

For more information visit https://www.cliffdwellingsmuseum.com/

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