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Bandelier National Monument is a National Monument preserving the homes of the Ancestral Pueblo People. It is named after Swiss anthropologist Adolph Bandelier, who researched the cultures of the area. Bandelier was designated a National Monument on February 11, 1916, while most of its backcountry became a "designated wilderness" in October 1976. The National Park Service co-operates with surrounding pueblos, other federal agencies and state agencies to manage the park, which receives 300,000 visitors annually.

Geography and geology

The park's elevations range from about 10,000 feet to 5,000 feet at the Rio Grandemarker. About five-sevenths ( ) of the monument has been designated a wilderness area. The Valles Caldera National Preservemarker adjoins the monument on the north and east, extending into the Jemez Mountains.

Much of the area was covered with volcanic ash (the Bandelier tuff) from an eruption of the Valles Calderamarker volcano 1.14 million years ago. The tuff overlies shales and sandstones deposited during the Permian and Pennsylvanian-era limestone. The volcanic outflow varied in hardness; the firmer materials would be used by the Ancestral Pueblo People as bricks, while the softer material was carved into homes.


Human presence in the area has been dated to over 10,000 years before present. Permanent settlements by ancestors of the Pueblo peoples have been dated to 1150 Common Era; these settlers had moved closer to the Rio Grande by 1550. The distribution of basalt and obsidian artifacts from the area, along with other traded goods, rock markings, and construction techniques, indicate that its inhabitants were part of a regional trade network that included Mexicomarker. Spanish settlers arrived in the 1700s. The Pueblo Jose Montoya brought Adolph Bandelier to visit the area in 1880; Bandelier, looking over the cliff dwellings, announced "It is the grandest thing I ever saw." Woodrow Wilson signed the legislation creating the monument in 1916, and infrastructure, including a lodge, was built during the 1920s and 1930s. The monument was closed to the public for several years during World War II, since the lodge was being used to house personnel working on the Manhattan Project.

The structures at the monument built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps constitute the largest assembly of CCC-built structures in a National Park area that has not been altered by new structures in the district. This group of 31 buildings illustrates the guiding principles of National Park Service Rustic architecture.

Several serious forest fires have plagued the monument in the latter part of the 20th century, culminating in the disastrous Cerro Grande Fire of 2000. This fire originated as a controlled burn for fire control but spread out of control owing to high winds, eventually burning over 40,000 acres (160 kmĀ²) of forest and destroying 250 homes in Los Alamos.

Monument description

The main attraction of the monument for the casual visitor is Frijoles Canyon, containing a number of ancestral pueblo homes, kivas (ceremonial structures), rock paintings and petroglyphs. Some of the dwellings were rock structures built on the canyon floor; others were "cavates" produced by voids in the tuff of the canyon wall and carved out further by humans. A 1.2-mile (1.6 km), predominantly paved, "Main Loop Trail" from the visitor center affords access to these features. A trail extending beyond this loop leads to Alcove House (formerly called Ceremonial Cave, and still so identified on some maps), a shelter cave produced by erosion of the soft rock and containing a small, reconstructed kiva that hikers may enter via ladder.

One site of archaeological interest in the canyon is Tyuonyi (Que-weh-nee) pueblo and nearby building sites such as Long House. Tyuonyi is a circular pueblo site that once stood 1-3 stories tall. Long House is adjacent to Tyounyi, built along and supported by the walls of the canyon. A reconstructed Talus House is also found along the Main Loop Trail.

These sites date from the Pueblo III (1150 to 1350 AD) and Pueblo IV (1350 to 1600 AD) periods. The age of the Tyuonyi construction has been fairly well established by the tree-ring method of dating, so widely and successfully used by archeologists in the Southwest. Ceiling-beam fragments recovered from various rooms give dates between A. D. 1383 and 1466. This general period seems to have been a time of much building in Frijoles Canyon; a score of tree-ring dates from Rainbow House ruin, which is down the canyon a half mile, fall in the early and middle 1400s. Perhaps the last construction anywhere in Frijoles Canyon occurred close to A. D. 1500, with a peak of population reached near that time or shortly thereafter.

The century before Tyuonyi's construction is thought to be characterized by intense change and migration in the Ancestral Puebloan culture. The period of highest population density in Frijoles Canyon corresponds to a period contemporaneous with a wide-scale migration of Ancestral Puebloans from the Four Corners area, which was experiencing a deep drought, environmental stress, and social unrest in the Pueblo III period. It is thought that some Ancestral Puebloan groups relocated into the Rio Grandemarker valley, southeast of their former territories, founding Tyuonyi and nearby sites. The pueblo was abandoned by 1600, and the inhabitants relocated to pueblos near the Rio Grande river such as Cohiti and San Ildefonso, which are still occupied.

Other, primitive trails enter the backcountry, which contains additional smaller archaeological sites, canyon/mesa country, and some transient waterfalls. Hikes to many of these areas are feasible and range in length from short (<1 hour)="" excursions="" to="" multi-day="" backpacks (permit from Visitor Center required for overnight trips). Unfortunately, some of the backcountry sites have been submerged, damaged, or rendered inaccessible by Cochiti Lake, a reservoir on the Rio Grandemarker created to reduce seasonal flooding that threatened communities and agricultural areas downstream.

A detached portion of the monument called the Tsankawi unit is near the town of Los Alamosmarker and offers the day hiker a chance to see excavated sites and petroglyphs . Also at the Tsankawi unit are the remains of the home and school for indigenous people established by Baroness Vera von Blumenthal and her lover Rose Dougan (or Dugan).

In the upper elevations of the monument, Nordic skiing is possible on a small network of trails reachable from New Mexico Highway 4. However, not every winter produces snowfall sufficient to allow good skiing.

Wildlife at Bandelier

Wildlife is locally abundant, and deer and Abert's squirrels are frequently encountered in Frijoles Canyon. Black bear and mountain lions inhabit the monument but are rarely encountered, even by the backcountry hiker. A substantial herd of elk are present (and represent a significant driving hazard) during the winter months, as snowpack forces them down from their summer range in the Jemez Mountains. Notable among the smaller mammals of the monument are large numbers of bats that seasonally inhabit shelter caves in the canyon walls, sometimes including those of Frijoles Canyon near the loop trail, which is diverted as necessary to avoid the bat colonies. Wild turkeys, vultures, ravens, several species of birds of prey, and a number of hummingbird species are common. Rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and "horned toads" (actually a species of lizard) are occasionally seen along the trails.

Bandelier Museum

The visitor center at Bandelier National Monument features exhibits about the site's inhabitants, including Ancestral Pueblo pottery, tools and artifacts of daily life. There are two life-size dioramas that demonstrate Pueblo life in the past and today. Also featured are contemporary Pueblo pottery pieces, 14 pastel artworks by Works Progress Administration artist Helmut Naumer Sr, and wood furniture and tinwork pieces created by the Civilian Conservation Corps. There is a 10 minute introductory film about the monument.


Image:Bandelier cliff.jpg|
Main cliff on loop trail
File:Band paintedcave.jpg|
Painted Cave, Ancestral Pueblo pictographs in the Bandelier backcountry
Image:Bandalier houses.jpg|
Cliff dwellings at Bandelier
File:Band backcountry.jpg|
Forested mesa tops are framed by the San Miguel Mountains in the Bandelier Wilderness
Image:Basketmaking, P Velarde.jpg|Basketmaking, by Pablita Velarde. Bandelier museum collectionFile:Bandelier Headquarters.jpg|
Park headquarters

National Park Service Rustic style

Bandelier has excellent examples of CCC-constructed National Park Service Rustic style of architecture, built while the areas was managed by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930s. The Bandelier CCC Historic District now encompasses these historic structures, which consist of the 'Frey Lodge', including the dining room, snack bar and kitchen (park headquarters), the guest cabins (employee housing), the gift shop (gift shop), and the park visitor center.


  1. Bandelier CCC Historic District
  • Dorothy Hoard; A Guide to Bandelier National Monument; Los Alamos Historical Society; ISBN 0-941232-09-3 (1995)

External links

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