The Puye Cliffs Mesa Top Tour is the second hour of the full two hour tour that also includes visiting the many cliff dwellings on two levels below the rim. The Puye Cliffs are part of the Santa Clara Reservation near Espanola in northwest New Mexico, and are considered to be their ancestral home.
On the tour that I took we climbed to the mesa top, but a van is also available to drive to the top. The Puye Cliffs were excavated from 1907 to 1910 by Edgar Hewitt. There are thought to be 700 rooms here and they were occupied for 600 years until the late 1500s.
The outlines of the extensive pueblo are visible with low reconstructed walls present. It is thought that up to 1500 people lived here, using the mesa top in summer and retreating to the cliff dwellings in winter. There are four room blocks surrounding a central plaza.
On the west side of the site, there has been some reconstruction to show how it might have looked. The Santa Clara people believe that their ancestors migrated here from Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde. Those two areas are thought to have been abandoned by 1300 AD.
By the late 1500s, the Santa Clara had moved to the area near the Rio Grande River where they live today.
Further to the west there is a stone wall that is thought to be a reservoir. There isn't a source of water on the mesa top. This reservoir would have to capture the runoff from the summer rains.
A large kiva has also been reconstructed and can be entered. Inside, the details of the reconstructed roof can be viewed along with some of the original stonework. The underground kiva provided insulation from both heat and cold.
Before or after the Puye Cliffs Tour, visitors can see the Harvey House, a 1930s era facility for early tourists. Inside, there is a short video and some interpretive displays.