Home > Colorado, Landscape Photography, Mesa Verde National Park, National Parks, Photo Gallery, Photo Locations > Photo Assignment: Capture Sunrise on Balcony House

Photo Assignment: Capture Sunrise on Balcony House

photography, travel, mesa verde national parknebraska photographs
At 4:45 A.M. and about 1 1/2 hours before sunrise I arrived on location to photograph my favorite place in the Mesa Verde, Balcony House. I’ve been granted a permit from the Chief Ranger’s Office to photograph sunrise at one of the Mesa Verde’s two best preserved cliff dwellings. Unlike the other two cliff dwellings open to the public, this ruin requires a sense of adventure and is physically challenging to reach, especially on a morning like this when I’m carrying 36 pounds of camera gear.

     Balcony House rests 600 feet above the floor of Soda Canyon. To reach it you climb down 130 metal stairs, hike a 1/4 mile long path, then climb a 30 foot tall wooden ladder and finally squeeze through an 18 inch wide, ten foot long opening that’s been carved between two boulders. At that point however, you step foot onto a courtyard where you can literally feel the spirit, energy and ingenuity of the people who constructed it 900 years ago. And today, as I stand on its main courtyard with the eastern sky turning a kaleidoscope of colors, I’m experiencing (and photographing) a sight very similar to what the Ancestral Puebloan’s witnessed in the 13th century. Here is one of those images.

Sunrise on Balcony House
(Balcony House, Mesa Verde National Park)


Built of sandstone blocks and standing two stories high Balcony House contains 38 rooms and two kivas. Constructed in various stages between 1180 and 1270 A.D. the entire structure is nearly 300 feet long, 20 feet high and 39 feet deep. The people who lived here were farmers who grew corn, beans, and squash on the mesa top. While their lives clearly involved much hard work, it was also filled with spiritual ceremonies, customs and rituals. Standing here alone this morning hundreds of feet above the canyon floor while watching the sun crest the horizon, I can’t help but feel a deep connection to these people and their beliefs. I hope the photographs below help to convey those feelings.

Sunrise on Balcony House
(Click Any Image Below For An Expanded View)




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  1. June 17, 2012 at 12:06 pm | #1

    I visited Mesa Verde for the first time this past summer and loved it! Your photos are spectacular!!

    • rickbraveheart
      June 17, 2012 at 1:46 pm | #2

      I’m so glad you got to experience this magical place, Sherry. Also, thank you for the kind worlds on the photography. The credit, however, all belongs to Nature who allows me capture her beauty from time to time.

  2. July 1, 2012 at 9:39 pm | #3

    Luminous. What photographs. What a miracle of a place in the world. Thank you for visiting my blog recently; thus enabling me to find your wonderful work.

    • rickbraveheart
      July 3, 2012 at 9:35 am | #4

      I’m very grateful for your kind words about the blog and the images from Acadia National Park Beth and especially for the phrase describing them as “luminous.” I’m honored to have had so many beautiful subject to photograph and your words made my heart sing. I’m also grateful for the chance to have discovered your own blog and the talented gift you have for writing and creating posts in which the reader also gets to know a little about you. How wonderful. Thanks.

  3. July 5, 2012 at 8:06 pm | #5

    My absolute favourite thing about waking up before dawn going for a walk and watching the sunrise… but these shots take it to a whole new level! :) Rick, your photos are breathtaking.

    • rickbraveheart
      July 6, 2012 at 8:20 am | #6

      I know just what you mean being outdoors before dawn and watching the sunrise. It is my most favorite time of day–it’s quiet, the colors are soft and Nature seems to glow with anticipation for a new day. Thank you for the kind words on the images. Of course, Nature herself is the star in all my work and she has often allowed me the honor to capture and share her beauty.

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