Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings by shutter_nutter on flickr
“The Manitou Cliff Dwellings is a rare historical treasure. Preserved under a protective red sandstone overhang, authentic Anasazi cliff dwellings, built more than 700 years ago, await you here. There are no “Do Not Touch” signs. You are free to touch and even go inside these fascinating architectural remnants of an American Indian culture that roamed the Four Corners area of the Southwest from 1200 B.C. to A.D. 1300.” – from the official site.
It’s sounds for real, but, in fact, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings are not really real. Or at least, they’re not authentic. Notice it says that the Anasazi roamed the Four Corners area, which is hours away from the Pikes Peak Region.
So why are there cliff dwellings in Manitou Springs, then?
In the early 1900s, a group headed by W. S. Crosby was formed to haul tons of cliff dwellings from private land in southwestern Colorado in order to “transplant” them to their current spot in Manitou Springs for the purpose of opening a tourist attraction! They were called the Manitou Cliff Dwellings Ruins Company, and they spent over $100,000 to transport and reconstruct the dwellings.
General William Palmer, the founder of Colorado Springs, is said to have “watched with anonymous amusement as the Manitou Cliff Dwellers Ruins Company hauled forty carloads of prehistoric Basketmaker apartment houses from Southwestern Colorado for reconstruction near Manitou as a tourist attraction.” (From Newport in the Rockies by Marshall Sprague, page 340.)
The dwellings in Manitou are supposedly set to resemble some of the more famous structures in Mesa Verde National Park, and Crosby spent a great deal of time convincing authorities that he had not taken the structures from the Mesa Verde National Park area, as some accused.
Regardless of whether or not you can truly consider them authentic, the scheme worked, because the Manitou Cliff Dwellings have been attracting thousands of tourists for decades now!
If you want to see real cliff dwellings in their original state, head southwest to Mesa Verde. We went there a couple of years ago, expecting to make it a quick 2-hour stop (we’re not much into history), and ended up spending almost all day at the park. It was fascinating!