Authentic Indian Cliff Dwellings
Manitou Springs, Colorado
The Manitou Cliff Dwellings strike the right vacation balance between authenticity and hands-on convenience. Set into an angled stratum of red sandstone, they are located just off Route 24, west of Colorado Springs.
In fact, if you get a good parking space, the walk to the first dwelling is only 50 feet. How is this possible -- that a preserved home of the ancients and road trip conveyances are in such harmony? Perhaps it has something to do with the other man-built attractions clustered in the Pikes Peak area: a fake North Pole at Santa's Workshop, a Ghost Town Museum, and a place called Magic Town. We didn't question too closely, because if the cliff dwellings were five miles up a mountain trail, there'd be no way to visit all those other places and get to Kansas by nightfall....
The incredibly believable Anasazi Indian cliff dwellings took about 20 minutes to fully investigate. An interior tunnel provides egress into each chamber in cutaway fashion, and visitors can stop to read explanatory signs. Unlike other easily damaged archaeological sites, all who pay admission here are encouraged to climb in and explore parts of the 3-family Pueblo structures (but leaping into the ceremonial "kiva" pit is considered inappropriate). Ramps thoughtfully provided along the front make this attraction wheelchair viewable.
Most tourists stepped from one doorway or window portal to the next, reading placards in polite silence, some seemingly in deep thought. "Hmmm -- Home of the Ancients.... certainly worth the admission price."
We observed several couples scuttling into a small dark room of the top left dwelling. And some youths looked like they were killing time until the laser show started at nearby Cave of the Winds.
The structures are estimated to be about 700 years old; the attraction was first opened in 1906. As near as we can tell, they existed as real cliff dwellings in a more remote section of western Colorado or New Mexico, and were painstakingly transported here piece-by-piece. That, plus the fact that they're cemented in place with modern-day cement, is why today's tourists can climb around what would otherwise be a hands-off attraction.
Nearby, the multi-level gift shop and museum -- The Pueblo -- is actually more interesting than the dwellings. Part of it was built over a century ago. The cliff face protrudes into some rooms. There is one skull in the Anasazi Museum, but of a basket weaver, not a cliff dweller. The gift shop offers a range of decent souvenirs -- bows and rubber tipped arrows for sale, and many young boys seen leaving with Indian spears with rubber tips. Native America pottery is sold with an accompanying certificate of authenticity, signed by the artist. See? Authentic.