On February 11, 1916, Bandelier National Monument was designated in New Mexico. Its 13,355 ha ( 33,000 acres) were set aside for the cultural conservation of archaeological and anthropological sites and materials and to provide recreational trail access to mountain, canyon, and mesa scenery.
One to two million years ago, super-volcanic eruptions in the nearby Jemez Mountains produced the ancient giant ash flows that form the principal Pajarito Plateau. Through the millennia, the volcanic tuff and underlying rock have eroded from heat, wind, and water into a network of canyons and tablelands. Populations of nomads who followed herds of large game animals used the canyons and forested plateaus for thousands of years. These populations used local materials for tools, eventually carving refuges and dwellings into softer cliffs. As their descendants finally moved the canyons to farm nearby, they built pueblos, “towns” in Spanish, and became known as Puebloans.
Here is a set of animations that provides insight into the structures of Ancestral Pueblo Indian homes, Long Houses — built from and/or carved into the volcanic tuff of canyon walls.
In addition to the cliff dwellings and ritual circles, there are painted and chiseled petroglyphs to reward the observant park visitor. Ranger-led summer “nightwalks” help park visitors soak up atmosphere and hear the cultural stories.
Wildlife is most diverse within the elevation inclines that produce the most diverse habitats between the Rio Grande in the south end of the monument area to the coniferous summit of Cerro Grande mountain, just over 3,000 m ( 10000 ft) high at the northern monument limit. These include areas of desert grasslands, meadows, and permanent river. These varied habitats support animal life from Rio Grande cut-throat trout to aspen munching elk herds, mule deer to mountain lions, badgers, bats, and Bald-headed Grosbeaks.
Slowing the erosion of soils through aridity and flash flooding is a major challenge for park management. A large area of monument is now under the protection of the National Wilderness Preservation System to protect, preserve, and manage the monument’s natural conditions.
B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage