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Bandelier National Monument is an oasis of history

Olivier Rey / Red Dirt Report
Caves and rooms from the ancient Pueblo people along the Frijoles Canyon at the Bandelier National Monument.
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BANDELIER NATIONAL MONUMENT, N.M. – This is it!  For our last day in New Mexico, we decided to visit Bandelier National Monument. The park has a name that doesn’t look local and with a good reason. The monument was named after Adolph Francis Alphonse Bandelier at the creation of the park by the President Woodrow Wilson on Feb.11, 1916.

Bandelier was a Swiss-born American archaeologist who spent a large portion of his life to studying indigenous cultures of the American Southwest, Mexico and South America.

Even if 70 percent of the monument is wilderness, the main attractions are the ruins of ancient Pueblo civilization who lived here between 1150 and 1600 AD, although nomads were present since 9500 BCE. Ruins of the ancient Pueblo are numerous around New Mexico and the Four Corners area. However, the unique location of the site makes it totally different than, for example, Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

Only 12 miles from Los Alamos, the Bandelier National Monument was closed during World War II to use the lodges for housing the secretive Manhattan Project scientists and military personnel.

Most of the ruins are located along the Frijoles Canyon between the visitor center and the Alcove House on the North side. There is only one condition to see the ruins; to follow the easy paved trail and look on the right side to observe the numerous remains of rooms and caves, built and sculpted at the bottom of the canyon, sometimes up to three stories.

Occasionally painting appears in former rooms, colored of red, black and white. But the most impressive is perhaps the numerous petroglyphs of animals, humans and others mystic symbols still observable on the wall of the canyon.

Tyuonyi Pueblo ruins at the Bandelier National Monument. (Olivier Rey/Red Dirt Report)

Then the hike continues into the preserved forest till the wood ladders that go up to the cliff dwelling, Alcove House. The fauna and flora are luxuriant and abundant along the river; it is easy to see why the ancient Pueblo people lived here- it is a true oasis!

In addition, for one who likes adventure, it is better to start the visit from the unique campground of the Monument instead of the visitor center. The Frey trail of 1.5 miles was the only access to the canyon prior the construction of the modern road. One will have an amazing view of the canyon and the Tyuonyi Pueblo ruins.

Important to know before going to Bandelier National Monument, is that due to limited parking lot available, one has to take a bus from the White Rock Visitor Center to access the area during summer time (mid-May till mid-Oct.). It’s a blessing in disguise as it provides one the possibility to enjoy the marvelous landscape of the Pajarito Plateau.

To conclude, after had visited a dozen of national parks and monuments in Colorado and New Mexico, Bandelier National Monument is the most peaceful.

Perhaps it is because of several fires burned a large part of the monument during the last decade. Prior the fires over 300,000 tourists came yearly to visit the park, but only 177,000 came on 2015.

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About the Author

Olivier Rey

Olivier has traveled in 20 countries on six continents before landing in Norman. Native French...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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