News & Events // Cliff Palace Status Report

Status Report: Cliff Palace Conservation and Stabilization Project
Prepared for the Mesa Verde Foundation
June 15, 2016

The park preservation staff has made significant progress toward the stabilization of Cliff Palace since our last status report.  In that report, dated June 15, 2015, we outlined key project accomplishments such as the completion of preliminary field documentation, the drafting of a preservation plan, subsurface testing in preparation for the installation of a masonry buttress below the front retaining wall, and construction of the buttress itself.  The preservation plan was approved by representatives of the affiliated native tribes at the annual consultation meeting in April.     
Our efforts this last year confirmed that the front retaining wall and nearby architecture such as Kiva G were founded on unstable geologic and cultural deposits (refuse and collapsed masonry) and that the wall itself was inherently unstable and incapable of arresting substrate movement, even if supported by the planned buttresses.  Accordingly, we have employed a Park Service engineer to assess geotechnical aspects of the site and develop an alternative plan. We are currently awaiting the formal engineering plan and cost estimate before proceeding with this work.  It will be necessary for the plan to undergo internal review and approval before consulting with the Colorado State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO).  If this or some alternative plan is approved, fieldwork likely will not take place until September of 2017.  Given the gravity of the problems affecting the site, we believe that this delay is necessary in order to choose the most appropriate but least invasive possible solution.    
As outlined below, our revised scheduling for the fall of 2015 and spring of 2016 completed other key elements of the original preservation plan, including the stabilization of Kivas G, M, and W, and some of the smaller retaining walls along the visitor trail.  These efforts focused on the preservation of original structural fabric in the kivas.  The two retaining walls, both built by the Park Service, warranted reconstruction because of their advanced deterioration.       
Key Points
·       Completed structural stabilization of Kiva G, October 2015
·       Completed structural stabilization of Kiva W in October, 2015
·       Completed structural stabilization of Kiva M in May, 2016
·       Reconstructed MS 82 retaining wall below access trail and Kiva V, completed October 2015
·       Reconstructed MS 85 retaining wall below Kiva W, completed May 2016
·       Repointing of various front retaining walls bordering the visitor trail, May 2016
Our anticipated plans for the fall of 2016 are a continuation of work at the Kiva M complex and other nearby units to alleviate instability resulting from water damage.  In 1995, wall masonry of several rooms at the Kiva M complex was damaged when water from a leaking pipeline entered the site through a vertical crack in the alcove ceiling.  It is unclear whether basal damage from nearby rooms results from the same source or from the natural hydrologic cycle.  In addition, we plan to continue stabilization of the several retaining walls and steps along the visitor trail.