Balcony House

Walls of a village built of stone sits beneath a large stone overhang.

“Balcony House, with its well-preserved rooms, kivas, and plazas, stands as a tribute to those who built and occupied the site in the thirteenth century, the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians of Arizona and New Mexico. Balcony House is also a tribute to the men who excavated and stabilized the site in the early part of the twentieth century…” (Kathleen Fiero, Balcony House: A History of a Cliff Dwelling, Copyright 1999 by Mesa Verde Museum Association.)

Balcony House was a mid-sized village of 38 rooms and two kivas and probably housed up to 30 people. Two naturally-occurring seep springs were located nearby, one within the alcove and one just below. Interestingly, its alcove faces northeast, which means the homes inside received little warmth from the sun during the winter months. Perhaps residents considered other needs, such as easy access to water, more important.

Evidence of how room and passageway construction in the alcove evolved through time can easily be seen in Balcony House. Today, the tunnel, passageways, and modern 32-foot entrance ladder are what make it the most adventurous cliff dwelling tour in the park.

Balcony House can be visited on ranger-guided tours througout the summer season. Learn more about cliff dwelling tours here.


Balcony House Late 1880s and Balcony House Today

Ancient, stone-masonry village rooms under an alcove with crumbled walls and piles of rubble. Ancient, stone-masonry village rooms under an alcove with crumbled walls and piles of rubble.

Left image
Balcony House, pre-stabilization
Credit: Thomas McKee. MEVE 9084, TM-53

Right image
Balcony House, post-stabilization
Credit: NPS Photo

A group of prospectors, led by S. E. Osborn, first entered Balcony House in the spring of 1884. Accompanied by W. H. Hayes and George W. Jones, the goal of their mission was to locate coal seams in nearby Mancos Canyon. Both Osborn and Hayes left their names in the site, with Osborn also leaving the date Mar 22, 1884. Hayes also later left his name across the canyon in Hemenway House on March 31. In later writings, Osborn describes some of the sites he visited in the Mesa Verde in 1883 and 1884.

Jesse Nusbaum excavated and stabilized Balcony House in 1910. Nusbaum was not only an accomplished archeologist, he was also one of the first superintendents of Mesa Verde National Park.

All archeological sites, especially those with standing architecture like Balcony House, require continued assessment and maintenance. Natural factors such as rainfall and alcove spalling, as well as animals and insects, all impact the integrity of the site's fabric. As a public site, conditions at Balcony House are routinely monitored on an annual basis. To learn how the park continues to preserve archeological sites for future generations, visit the Archeological Site Conservation Program.


Last updated: April 13, 2023

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