Bandelier National Monument,

offers something for everyone.  For the geologist, there is a magnificent layer-cake of sedimentary horizons -- buried one million years ago under 1000 feet of volcanic tuff from a massive eruption of the Jemez volcano.  For the archeologist, Bandelier offers the tantalizing ruins of a large native-american settlement -- much of it still unexcavated.  For the photographer there are the dramatic waterfalls and cliffs of Frijoles Canyon.  Hikers can tread pumice pathways worn three feet deep by the footfalls a native americans a half-millenium ago.  Sociologists can listen to the echoes within the empty kivas, and feel the lingering presence of a vanished society.  This is a fitting destination for our INHL journey up the Camino Real.

The pueblo indians are thought to have settled into Bandelier National Monument from about 1175 AD through 1600 AD.    Although only partially excavated, the ruins include the impressive circular Talus House pictured at the bottom.  This contained hundreds of small rooms built up to three and four stories high.  The soft tuff of the cliff was easily honeycombed with rooms that were enlarged by adding support poles and additional structures at the base of the cliff -- multi-story dwellings that supported hundreds of people.  The cliff is carved with pictographs, and the park service has provided ladders that allow you to visit sites such as the cave kiva (pictured) or the mysterious ceremonial cave, which offers a majestic panorama of the whole valley.  Climbing three ladders up 100 feet in the rain to watch the sun set is an experience we won't forget.  (Click on the image to see enlargements of the pictures.)



The Falls Trail is a 5 mile round-trip from the visitor center down to the Rio Grand.  Halfway down you can see two waterfalls that had been made quite magnificent by the steady rain the previous night.  Notice the unusual geology of the canyon -- the sedimentary layers were suddenly covered by a massive fall of incandescent ash that instantly fused to create the soft tuff that forms the upper cliffs.  The boundary layer is clearly visible -- a bad place to have been standing one million years ago.  The stream has easily eaten through the soft rock on it's journey to the Rio Grande below.  The whole canyon -- including the sedimentary layers -- only represents a few million years of geologic history.  The eruption of the Jemez volcano left a vast crater that is one of the largest in the world -- an explosion that was hundreds of times larger than Mt. St Helens.  This region of New Mexico is quite active geologically, and future eruptions will undoubtedly occur.

Click to see Jemez Volcano ---> 
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