National Park Service

Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN)

Mesa Verde National Park (MEVE)

Spruce Tree House<br/>(SCPN photo) Bald eagles<br/>(SCPN photo) Bird monitoring in pinyon-juniper woodland <br/>(SCPN photo) Prehistoric tower<br/>(SCPN photo) Rock Canyon as seen from Wetherill Mesa<br/>(SCPN photo) Water quality monitoring on the Mancos River in winter<br/>(SCPN photo) Fall colors along the Mancos River<br/>(SCPN photo) Spinystar cactus grows under pinyon and juniper trees<br/>(SCPN photo) Cliff Palace Pueblo<br/>(NPS photo) Sunset at Knife Edge cliffs<br/>(SCPN photo) Fawns near Morefield Campground<br/>(SCPN photo) Tower and kiva at Cedar Tree Pueblo<br/>(NPS photo) Mancos River<br/>(SCPN photo) Mancos River in winter<br/>(SCPN photo) Black-on-white pot sherd<br/>(SCPN photo) Prairie rattlesnake<br/>(NPS photo)

Inventory Reports

Monitoring Project Summaries

Monitoring Reports

Monitoring Protocol Documents

University of Wyoming Logo
Park Flora (SEINet)
NPS Logo Official Mesa Verde NP Website
SCPN park map
Location of Mesa Verde NP in the Southern Colorado Plateau Network. Click for larger image.

Mesa Verde National Park encompasses 51,982 acres (21,000 ha) in southwestern Colorado. First established in 1906 to protect over 4,800 Ancestral Puebloan archeological sites, the park's enabling legislation was amended several times to expand the boundaries and enhance the park's purpose to include the preservation of the forests, wildlife, and other natural features and values and to exclude incompatible uses.

Mesa Verde's significance and worldwide value was recognized by its selection as a World Cultural Heritage site in 1978.

Mesa Verde NP is located on a cuesta (a ridge formed by gently tilting sedimentary rock layers) incised by many deep, long canyons separating numerous narrow, parallel mesas in the transitional zone between the arid south and the temperate/alpine Rocky Mountains to the north.

Major vegetation communities found at Mesa Verde NP include pinyon-juniper woodlands, semi-desert grasslands, and and shrublands dominated by Gambel oak and serviceberry.

Grazing has been excluded from the park for 60 years, and as a result, many plant and animal species that have disappeared or become very rare in the surrounding region still exist at Mesa Verde, including many species of rare and endemic plants. Five amphibian, 200 bird, 5 fish, 74 mammal, 16 reptile, and several hundred invertebrate species have been documented in the park.

Although the Mancos River is the only perennial stream, other water sources, such as seeps, springs, pot holes and historic wells, are relatively abundant. Under the Clean Air Act, Mesa Verde is designated as a Class I airshed. Because of its remote location and dry climate, the dark night skies make Mesa Verde a great location for viewing stars and planets.

The Southern Colorado Plateau Network conducts long-term monitoring of aquatic macroinvertebrates, bird communities, integrated riparian ecosystems, integrated upland ecosystems, spring ecosystems, land surface phenology, and water quality at Mesa Verde NP.

Life Zones at Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde NP ranges in elevation range from 6,012 to 8,571 feet (1,833–2,613 m) and spans four life zones: the Semi-Desert Grassland/Shrub Steppe, Pinyon-Juniper Woodland, Ponderosa Pine Forest and Mixed Conifer Forest. The park experiences an average annual precipitation of 17.8 inches (453 mm ).

Mesa Verde Life Zones

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Last Updated: January 23, 2018 Contact Webmaster