Prologue: Arizona's Wupatki NM, which I recently posted a diary on same (http://www.dailykos.com/...), but slipped fairly rapidly through the Recent Diary list, reminded me of a complimentary contrast, if you will, to living style and quarters. Thus the subject title of today's diary, on Bandelier. We'll be headed west out of Santa Fe and fairly close to a locale where more Ph.D's live and work than anywhere on the planet. Can you guess the name of this town? (Here's a hint: Its work force of scientific Mensa types was responsible for making the biggest and loudest and brightest explosion of all time, at a place called Trinity.) Anyway, this upcoming tour is about a unique geologic setting the Ancestral Puebloans found ideal for settlement, mainly by fashioning apartments in readymade caves. They also selected a region where wildlife was abundant, as well as year-round water coursing through their expansive settlement. If you love hiking, then you are sure to love Bandelier's stunning setting and this archeological repository of dwellings and ruins.
Location/Geography: New Mexico, in Sandoval, Los Alamos, and Santa Fe Counties. Nearest city: Los Alamos (and fairly close to Santa Fe). Area: 33,677 acres. Monument entrance elevation about 6,500 feet. Located in the Santa Fe National Forest.
Spotlight: Human habitation for over 10,001 years. Geology ideal for cave dwelling (tuff, from volcanic ash). Bandelier's heyday (occupation), from 1151 to 1351. The big adventure here is to climb to Alcove House high above the canyon floor by way of wooden ladders, then climb down into a reconstructed kiva built inside the cave (not for the unwary).
Snapshot: Bandelier's main attraction is Frijoles Canyon. Its setting features a number of pueblo homes, kivas and petroglyphs. Some of these Ancestral Puebloan dwellings are structures built on the canyon floor, while others are alcoves high in the canyon wall. These sizable openings, called cavates, were later enlarged by humans. This rugged and arid landscape maintained an indigenous population that lived along the streams in the canyons, and in some cases on mesa tops above them. The Rito de los Frijoles ("Bean Creek") in Frijoles Canyon runs nearly year-round, while most canyons have seasonal streams that dry up during parts of the year.
Having the advantage of a dependable water source is another reason why Bandelier was heavily populated through the centuries. The monument’s primary resources are cultural––archaeological and anthropological. The scenic canyon and mesa country also count, both melding into high country mountain vistas at the upper end of Bandelier’s periphery. Surrounded by the Santa Fe National Forest, the monument's elevations range from about 5,340 feet at the Rio Grande to 7,800 feet. The topography also follows from the monument’s lofty setting on top of the Pajarito Plateau, which is part of the nearby Jemez Mountains. Bounded on the west by the famed Valles Caldera and on the east by the White Rock Canyon of the Rio Grande, the ash flow that formed the plateau originated from a major eruption (the volcanic Jemez Mountains). The modern site, once a populated settlement of the Ancestors, and named after the Swiss anthropologist Adolph Bandelier who initially surveyed the ruins, was declared a national monument in 1916. As a note of interest, a large collection of structures at Bandelier were built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). These peerless and talented workers first constructed the largest assembly of structures in a national park area that has not been altered by new structures in the district.
Guided Tour Essentials: The telling facts and features about this national monument is Bandelier's human history story. Elevation, like geology, plays an important role regarding natural history and human inhabitation of a region. At Bandelier, both aspects were agreeable to the dwellers. From 5,340 feet at the Rio Grande to the south and 10,199 feet to the summit of Cerro Grande to the north, there is nearly 1-mile of elevation change in just under 12 miles. This gradient creates a unique and ideal diversity of habitats peculiar to northern New Mexico. Such diversity, along with an easy access to a dependable water source, helped support a fairly large population who lived there. Human presence in the area has also been dated to over 10,000 years, while permanent settlements have been dated to 1150. The Ancestral Puebloans, denoting the latest prehistoric dwellers who settled here, lived closer to the Rio Grande by 1550. Surprisingly, primal volcanic eruptions later favored human habitation due in part to the generous distribution of basalt and the much prized obsidian ("volcanic glass").
Obsidian was also a popular trading commodity, along with other goods exchanged. Bandelier became part of a regional trade network that also included Mexico. When Spanish settlers arrived in the 1700s, the network expanded.
At this point, I think a photo tour of Bandelier will highlight why prehistoric people favored this region for thousands of years (captions below pictures will guide you along the way).
Archeological Sites At Bandelier: Given the above timeline for human occupation, sites here at Bandelier date from the Pueblo III and IV Eras (respectively 1150-1350 and 1350-1400). These dates highlight industrious construction in Frijoles Canyon. Perhaps the last structures built anywhere in Frijoles Canyon occurred close to 1500, with a peak population census near this date or shortly thereafter. Cultural scientists surmise the century before the construction of the 400-room Tyuonyi Pueblo (in Frijole Canyon) Bandelier was characterized by intense change and migration in the Ancestors culture. The highest population density in Frijoles Canyon corresponds to a wide scale migration of these people away from the Four Corners region (possibly from the Mesa Verde community). It’s also thought that some groups relocated into the Rio Grande Valley, southeast of their former territories, who later returned and constructed Tyuonyi and nearby sites. However, the pueblo at Bandelier was abandoned by 1600. Again, the inhabitants relocated to sites near the Rio Grande River such as the Cochiti and San Ildefonso pueblos.
Note: For an archeological timeline and overview, please read this diary that was posted previously:Geology: The geology of the Pajarito Plateau was influential for industrious people who inhabited this widespread and diverse landscape. From the cliffs of Frijoles Canyon, created from the ash of volcanic eruptions, to the fallen ash ("tuff") that enhanced construction of their homes, the materials used to make arrowheads, axe heads, and grinding tools comes from the basic geologic foundation of this region. The 12-mile-wide Valles Caldera is the mother load source. Today, this gaping caldera is a major impression stamped on the landscape, with Bandelier’s turf located on the outer slope of the caldera’s massive depression. The Valles Caldera National Preserve adjoins the monument on the north and east, and extends into the Jemez Mountains.
Bonus Details: The caldera, which is a cauldron-like volcanic feature (and therefore not a true volcanic crater), was formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption that rained ash and cinders over a 1,500 square miles. After the volcano emptied its magma chamber some 1.1 million years ago, a gaping, circular depression remained. During the ancient eruption ash flowed up to 1,000 feet thick across the landscape from the caldera rim to the Rio Grande. As the hot ash cooled, it welded into a rock called tuff (or "tufa"), consisting of volcanic ash ejected from vents during the eruption. Geologists label this rock Bandelier tuff. Bandelier is also replete with this source material, which covers shales, sandstones and limestone deposited during the Permian and Pennsylvania period's (both Paleozoic Era formations). The volcanic outflow varies in hardness. The firmer materials were used by the Ancestral Puebloans as bricks, while the softer material was carved into alcove dwellings, much like small apartments overlooking the canyon floor.
Flora And Fauna: Because of the substantial elevation gradient, wildlife is as locally abundant as it is manifold. For instance, deer, elk, black bear, foxes, mountain lions, coyote, bobcat and wild turkeys comprise the major and larger mammal and avian species found in this region. Ravens, raptors, reptiles, bats, tarantulas and the handsome tufted-eared Abert squirrel also call this territory home. Most stay in the backcountry but they sometimes wander into the monument. Fortunate it is for those who see these elusive creatures. Of course, we've all seen most of the above mentioned critters, but there is one among them I would like to share with you, as a photo, because for a change here is one squirrel species that does not fit the common disparaging name, rat-with-a-tail. Namely, the Abert squirrel (and cousin to the Grand Canyon South Rim's Kaibab squirrel:
Trails: Hiking in Bandelier is highly recommended. Trails lead both upstream and downstream from the visitor center and main loop trail. Downstream, the primary trail climbs a short distance above the canyon bottom (hot and exposed during summer). The pathway leads to Upper and Lower Frijoles Falls.
Both falls are found where the Rito de los Frijoles, cascading over resistant basalt cliffs interbedded with the prevailing tuff. They are best viewed during the spring since the runoff is greater at that time. In the fall and winter, however, the falls may be nearly dry, a mere sprinkle compared to earlier in the year. One may turn around at either of the falls or continue downstream to the Rio Grande. There are inspiring views along the way. The total roundtrip distance is about 7 miles.
Other popular trails include the 1.2-mile Main Loop Trail leading to the shelter cave, Alcove House. There's a reconstructed kiva in this ruin and entered by a sturdy ladder.
There's even a forewarning sign about this popular dwelling:
The incentive, other than the view and the courage getting up there is this reconstructed kiva:
There's even a ladder into its interior:
Previously called the Ceremonial Cave, the alcove (it should be apparent from the photos) is not a destination for the faint hearted since this archeological site for some visitors is 140 feet above the floor of Frijoles Canyon. The site served the needs of some 25 inhabitants. Except in winter, the remains of this dwelling are reached by four wooden ladders and stone stairs carved into the face of the rock. Views of viga (pronounced "vee-ga") holes, where heavy wooden beams once supported the roof, as well as niches of other dwellings, can be seen from Alcove House.
The trail leading to this ruin also loops through other archeological areas (Big Kiva, Tyuonyi, Talus House and Long House). Another archaeological site of interest is the aforementioned Tyuonyi (pronounced "Que-weh-nee"). Its construction typifies a circular pueblo site that once stood one to three stories tall. Long House is next to Tyuonyi, built along and supported by the walls of the canyon. A reconstructed pueblo, Talus House, is also on the Main Loop Trail. There are some optional ladders that allow access to the smaller human-carved alcoves.
The Frey Trail is also popular with hikers (1.5 miles each way), having an elevation change of 550 feet. From this sector, the Falls Trail starts at the east end of the so-called Backpacker Parking Lot. Descending 701 feet over 2.5 miles, this route leads to, and passes, the Upper and Lower Waterfalls, eventually ending at the Rio Grande. The last half mile of the path follows close to the creek before its confluence with the river. Here the main channel water flows slowly through a picturesque V-shaped canyon. The vegetation is sparse and the rock walls are a varied color, quite barren in appearance, giving a feeling of remoteness. The atmosphere is equally haunting, as in nostalgic. It’s easy to imagine the ancestral peope of long ago who frequently came here. The trail doesn’t stop here, however. A rough outline of a path follows the river south through White Rock Canyon, leading to Cochiti Lake. Be forewarned: the hike is about 14 miles and is best considered for fit backpackers.
Bonus Details: Along with the elevation change, the Falls Trail challenges include steep drop-offs at many places along its pathway. There's also a lack of bridges over Frijoles Creek. The 2.5 miles Frijolito Loop Trail is even more strenuous and climbs out of Frijoles Canyon using a switchback path. Once on top of the mesa, this route passes Frijolito Pueblo. The trail then returns to the visitor center along the Long Trail. A detached portion of the monument, called the Tsankawi unit, is near Atomic City, otherwise known as Los Alamos. Excavated sites and petroglyphs await hikers who venture here, including the early-20th Century remains of a home and school for indigenous people.
Directions: From Santa Fe, St. Francis Drive (Hwy. 84/285) north toward Los Alamos, then right onto NM 502 (toward Los Alamos), then turn right and exit onto NW 4 toward White Rock. Continue 12 miles), passing White Rock to the monument entrance (on the left).
Contact Information: Superintendent, Bandelier National Monument, 15 Entrance Road, Los Alamos NM 87544. Phone (Visitor Center): 505-672-3861, ext. 517. Fax 672.9607. Email embedded in NPS site’s URL (click on “Email Us”)
And so, DKos community, we come to the end of another trail, another armchair tour. There will be other scenic places to tour and more supplemental topics to read and think about, so stay tuned for a continuation in this series.
FYI: For a list of all diaries posted to date, please see the growing inventory by clicking on my profile or by dialing in this URL: http://www.dailykos.com/....
Note: If commenting on an older diary, please send an email to my profile account and I am sure to respond in a timely manner. Although all the diary material is extrapolated from a larger copyrighted main source (my own works-in-progress) feel free to “liberate” given anything that I have posted thus far. That being said, kindly site the original source. Gracias.
About The Photographs: Unless otherwise indicated, all photos posted in my diary series are “Fair Use” and strictly educational in purpose and intent. See “Attributed” slot for photo identity source (usually Creative Commons non-commercial use only and Public Domain sources).