Posted by: sunnyharvy | April 27, 2014

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years.  Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of the Puebloan culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

The village of Tyuonyi on the floor of Frijoles Canyon was at the height of its development in the late 1400s. It was inhabited at the same time a the dwellings built along the base of the cliff.

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Talus houses, like the reconstruction at Bandelier shown below, were built on the rock debris (talus) slopes on the sunny sides of canyons and mesas.

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Most of what we see (and crawl around) today are just the rooms they built into the actual cliff, which when inhabited, would have been behind the talus houses.

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While on the 1.2 mile Main Loop Trail to Tyuonyi and the cliff dwellings we ran into the same couple we’d seen earlier in the day at Jemez Falls. We struck up a conversation and shared stories and suggestions as we hiked along. Dale and Jeannette, from British Columbia, have been nearly full time RVers for 15 years!

We learned that in June 2011 the largest wildfire in New Mexico history burned all the major watersheds within Bandelier including Frijoles Canyon, where the visitor center and most visited archaeological sites are located. With most of the vegetation removed, fear of flash flooding was a call to action. Jersey barriers and over 14,000 sandbags were placed around the historic visitor center buildings that were built in the 30s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

On August 21st flooding fears were realized. Heavy rains in the Jemez Mountains lead to widespread flooding in all of the east facing canyons including Frijoles Canyon. Flood protection put into place held and damage to the park’s newly renovated visitor center was light. My photos below indicate the force of the flood waters, which came very close to the primary ruins.

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We are grateful that the park and most of the archaeological sites within were saved for us to appreciate.

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Meanwhile, back at the campsite, Al goes through his stretching regimen before our next day’s outing at another separate section of Bandelier National Monument.

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