Imagine this mesa top in A.D. 1150 with fields of corn, beans, and squash; supplemented with wild plants such as amaranth, tubers, and sunflowers. Children could be seen watering corn with clay water jars (ollas), and young men could be seen cutting pi?on and juniper trees to expand the gardens for future years.
The Ancestral Puebloans were attracted to the mesa top by fertile soil, a relatively long growing season, and an ample amount of precipitation for "dryland" farming. In the form of winter snow and summer rainstorms, Mesa Verde averages about 17 inches of moisture per year.
There is no evidence that agricultural fields within Mesa Verde were ever irrigated; however, the Ancestral Puebloans constructed an extensive network of ditches, canals, and reservoirs to collect and store rain water for domestic use.
(Left Photo Caption)
A Hopi farmer uses traditional techniques to grow corn. The introduction of corn, smaller and more drought-resistant than the kind we are familiar with today, changed the Ancestral Puebloans from nomadic hunter-gathers to settled farmers.
- Photo by A.C. Vroman, circa 1900s. Courtesy Seaver Center for Western History Research, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History
(Center Map Caption)
In September 2004, Morefield, Box Elder, Far View, and Sagebrush reservoirs were designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. This water management system is one of the oldest engineered public works in the United States.
- Map by National Park Service
(Center Photo Caption)
Corn requires 70 frost-free days to mature. The mesa top has an average of 85 frost-free days.
(Right Aerial Image Caption)
Aerial view of Chapin Mesa displaying the maize fields (near Far View Visitor Center) and a probable system of collector ditches and a canal ditch that carried water from the fields to Far View Reservoir.
- Aerial view courtesy of Bureau of Reclamation
(Right Photo Caption)
Digging stick used to loosen the soil before planting.