Support beams at Square Tower.

There is something quixotic (oxymoronic?) about preserving ruins.  Especially sandstone ruins, patched with clay and mud, and built below large sandstone cliffs. Everything is moving. Everything is collapsing. The mesa is a great sand-filled wave, cresting in slow motion.  And if you sit still, you can watch it roll.

In the cliff above Spruce Tree House, a pinyon pine can be seen growing out of the rock (top right corner). In the bottom left corner can be seen its roots breaking through. Eventually the tree will cause the cliff to collapse.  When asked about the tree, the ranger shrugged. “It’s winning,” he said with a smile.

At Mesa Verde, some cliff dwellings simply can’t be saved. For these structures, you can sit off to the side and watch the buildings collapse, stone by stone, in real time.

What is that white line in the rock?  A vein of quartz? Nope. Salt deposits?  Nope.  It’s caulk.  The Parks Department is trying to save the ruins with Liquid Nails.    

Not only are the cliff dwellings collapsing at Mesa Verde, so are the alcoves above the cliff dwellings.  In this photo, the park attempts to stop entropy with a well-placed steel rod (lower left).