We waited for the warmest day (in the 40’s) during our visit to Albuquerque to drive out to the Indian Pueblos again, this time to visit Bandelier National Monument. Bandelier National Monument is a 33,677 acre U.S. National Monument preserving the homes and territory of the Ancestral Pueblo People.
Adolph A. Bandelier, a self-taught historian and anthropologist, first visited this area of Frijoles Canyon in 1880, guided by some men from Cochiti Pueblo. He was so Impressed by the beauty and distinctive cave-room architecture of this site that he made it the setting of his novel, The Delight Makers, which depicted Pueblo life in pre-Spanish times. Bandelier continued his work in Peru and Bolivia and also studied early Spanish records of the Americas in Seville, Spain. Bandelier’s pioneering work is one of the foundations for much of southwestern archaeology.
Archaeological surveys show that there were at least 3,000 sites in Bandelier, but not all were inhabited at the same time. For generations the Pueblo Indians lived in scattered settlements of one or two families each, but as the population grew, larger groups came together in these settlements. By the mid-1200s, villages had grown to include up to 40 rooms.
For the next 250 years, the settlements continued to grow. The villages of Tyuoni and Tsankawi and their adjacent dwellings sometimes exceeded 600 rooms. After over 400 years, the land here could not support the people any longer. These difficulties were compounded by a severe drought and by the mid-1550s, they left this area and settled into new homes along the Rio Grande River. Even though no written records exist, the memories of the homes where the ancestors of the Pueblo Indians lived continue in their oral traditions.
The Pueblos of Cochiti, San Felipe, Santo Domingo, San Ildefonso, Santa Clara and Zuni all have strong connections to Bandelier. Representatives from each of the Pueblos work closely with park staff when decisions affecting their ancestral homelands have to be made.
The park has only three miles of public road and the rest is an extensive trail system. We hiked the Main Loop trail, which takes you to the Tyuoni dwellings. There are dwellings on the valley floor as well as cliff dwellings, and visitors are allowed to enter those that have ladders. Toward the end of the trail, we saw a number of petroglyphs and some pictographs.
The Main Loop Trail connects to another short trail to Frijoles Canyon and the Alcove House. This part of the trail is more primitive and because it’s in the shade, it still had snow on it. And it felt pretty cold on this section of the trail, but it was beautiful with the ice on the river and the snow on the ground.
Several fires in the area deforested the area at the top of the canyon and now floods have become a major problem. There was lots of evidence of the most recent flood (last September) on our trail in the form of overturned trees, large branches on the ground and other debris. The state park has a lot of work to do.
Alcove House, an elevated site once home to approximately 25 Ancestral Pueblo people, is now reached by four wooden ladders and a number of stone stairs. There is a reconstructed kiva, viga holes (for the posts that held the roof up) and niches of former homes in Alcove House, and it’s one of the most spectacular sites in the park.
Unfortunately, the ladders had ice on them so the area was closed at this time. Such a drag, but we enjoyed the short hike and were able to look up at the impressive site. We must return during warmer weather, but for now, we have to say goodbye to this beautiful place and head to an area that is just for the birds.