11 Most Endangered Historic Places
Mesa Verde National Park
Year Listed: 1998
Threat: Deterioration, Natural Forces
Photo: James Wicker
Sprawling across more than 52,000 acres of rugged canyon and tableland in southwestern Colorado, Mesa Verde is America's best-known national park dedicated to archaeological resources. Created by Congress in 1906, the park contains the world's most important and best-preserved collection of pre-Columbian cliff dwellings, remnants of the Ancestral Puebloan culture that flourished in the area from the 6th through the 13th century.
However, in 1998, this awe-inspiring place was in peril. Of the more than 600 cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde, the National Park Service had the resources to provide regular maintenance for only 40 to 50. Problems arising from chronically inadequate funding were compounded when a fire damaged some sites and exposed others to erosion.