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Bandelier National Monument
Bandelier National Monument Review
Seven centuries before the Declaration of Independence was signed, compact city-states existed in the Southwest. Remnants of one of the most impressive of them can be seen at Frijoles Canyon in Bandelier National Monument. At the canyon's base, near a gurgling stream, are the remains of cave dwellings, ancient ceremonial kivas, and other stone structures that stretch out for more than a mile beneath the sheer walls of the canyon's tree-fringed rim. For hundreds of years the ancestral Puebloan people, relatives of today's Rio Grande Pueblo Indians, thrived on wild game, corn, and beans. Suddenly, for reasons still undetermined, the settlements were abandoned.
Wander through the site on a paved, self-guided trail. Steep wooden ladders and narrow doorways lead you to the cave dwellings and cell-like rooms. There is one kiva in the cliff wall that is large, and tall enough to stand in. Don't forget to look up, sometimes way up, into the nooks and crevices of the canyon wall above the dwellings to view the remarkable, mysterious petroglyphs left behind by the Ancestral Puebloans.
Bandelier National Monument, named after author and ethnologist Adolph Bandelier (his novel The Delight Makers is set in Frijoles Canyon), contains 23,000 acres of backcountry wilderness, waterfalls, and wildlife. Sixty miles of trails traverse the park. A small museum in the visitor center focuses on the area's prehistoric and contemporary Native American cultures, with displays of artifacts from 1200 to modern times as well as displays on the forest fires that have devastated parts of the park in recent years. There is a small café in the wonderful, 1930s CCC-built stone visitors complex. It is worth getting up early to get here when there are still shadows on the cliff walls because the petroglyphs are fantastic and all but disappear in the bright light of the afternoon. If you are staying in the area, ask about the night walks at the visitor center, they're stellar! Pets are not allowed on any trails.
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