The Manitou Cliff Dwellings near Colorado Springs are one of many intricate cliff pueblo sites found in the southwest region of the United States. Believe it or not, the structures at this site aren't actually in their original location. The structures at the Manitou Cliff Dwellings were relocated in the early 1900s as part of a preservation effort.
The materials used to build the Manitou Cliff Dwellings are remnants of Anasazi ruins that were originally tucked into a canyon near Dolores in southwestern Colorado, dating back to up to 1,000 years ago. The move began in 1904 when preservationists sought to protect the ruins from looters. It wasn’t until 1906 when the federal government enacted the Antiquities Act that protects historical sites.
Over the course of three years, Virginia McClurg, the original founder of the Colorado Cliff Dwellers Association, hired William Crosby and the Manitou Cliff Dwellings Ruins Company to move the Anasazi ruins to a safe place determined to be Cliff Canyon of Manitou Springs.
The materials of the ruins were loaded into carts and pulled by oxen from the original site in McElmo Canyon to Dolores. From the town, the materials were loaded into the train to a Colorado Springs depot. From downtown, the ruins were loaded into wagons and pulled by horse up the foothills and into the canyon that overlooks Manitou Springs.
Crosby and his men reassembled the materials into the original dimensions and appearance as they stood before. There are, however, several key differences, including that Crosby's men used concrete mortar instead of adobe mud and clay mortar to rebuild the dwellings. This change was intended to make the structures safer to tour. If it were not for the preservationists of the early 1900s, it’s likely that these Anasazi ruins would’ve been lost to artifact hunters and looters.
Visitors today can tour both outside and inside the Cliff Dwellings, as well as a three-story Pueblo that houses a museum and gift shop. Read more about where to experience and learn about Native American cultures throughout Colorado by clicking here.