The Geology Of The Mesa Verde National Park

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Mesa Verde is most well known for its cliff dwellings found in the sandstone of its dynamic landscape. The Mesa Verde National park was originally established for the main purpose of preserving these very same archaeological sites. Without the geology of the area these dwellings might never have come to be, or preserved so splendidly. While it has many different geological formations on the property John Carrara states that “The Mesa Verde is essentially a broad, flat, upland surface sloping gently to the south and dissected by deep canyons containing ephemeral streams.” (Carrara 2014) The majority of the rock formation found in the park were formed from sediments from the crustaceous age (Carrara 2014) . The four most prevalent forms are …show more content…

One of the more notable of these being the desert varnish. Desert varnish is a rust colored streaking found on rocks and cliffs around the cliff houses. This is caused by bacteria grabbing onto minerals and particles that are existing in the rock or blown around by the wind. Another fascinating geological feature found at Mesa Verde is turtle back weathering (NPS 2005). The formation is found in the Cliff House Sandstone group in areas that are not covered or protected. Similar to the formation of the alcoves water seeping into cracks and freezing plays an integral part in the forming of this feature. The water in the cracks also serves the additional purpose of dissolving the calcium within the rocks which weakens them, and leaves behind the signature turtle shell quality. Ripple Marks, while by no means exclusive to the Mesa Verde, are very beautiful land formations that provide a clear indication as to how they were made (NPS 2005). The formations look just like ripples in water and it is indeed water ripples that help form them. The water leaves behind sediments with each ripple which slowly compacts into sedimentary rock that closely resemble its forming …show more content…

With the wet periods in this climate that are quickly followed by dry periods, it causes the soils to swell and contract over and over. In most soils you will simply get cracked clay with this process, but with clay from volcanic ash it forms this popcorn texture instead. Another important characteristic that possibly effected the location of the cliff houses is the Loess (NPS 2005). This is basically just wind blown salt that has slowly gathered over the years, but it served a very important purpose for the inhabitants of the cliff dwellings. In the arid environment this Loess would hold the moisture and nutrients so the inhabitants could farm to grow food. Without this the natives would have been forced to live in a more congenial environment. Mesa Verde may seem very similar to the parks surrounding it, but it is unique and amazing in its own right. It is hard to imagine that something like a tiny change in incline, precipitation, or temperature fluctuation might make a landscape look completely different. In this case an entire civilizations home and way of life would be drastically changed. Understanding the internal workings and cycles of the world around you can make or break and entire

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