A Pueblo III Cistern at Mesa Verde National Park

Numerous ancient water-control features have been documented at Mesa Verde National Park. One of the more ingenious, illustrated in the photographs below, consists of a small masonry reservoir, or cistern, constructed below a notch in the canyon rim. Rainwater and melted snow would have been funneled through the notch and down the rock face, eventually collecting in the cistern at the base of the cliff, where it was used by residents of a nearby site.

The system still works today, with even relatively light rains resulting in the accummulation of significant amounts of water in the cistern.

A Pueblo III water-control feature at Mesa Verde National Park. Photos by Greg Hobbs.

A Pueblo III water-collection system at Mesa Verde National Park. A notch in the canyon rim (inset) funneled water down the rock face, into the ancient cistern at the base of the cliff. The large photo shows members of a 2010 research team recording measurements inside the masonry-lined cistern.