Today, I have two places for your consideration when creating a Bucket List of things to do and see in New Mexico. Both are amazingly beautiful and completely different from each other – Bandelier and Bosque del Apache. One is an historical park of the ancient cliff dwellers places and their ceremonial places. The other is a nature preserve that is on a major flyway for beautiful birds. Both are worth the visit.
Bandelier is a beautiful canyon set into the high mountains of northern New Mexico. Santa Fe is a good place to stay for your visit to Bandelier, as there is not much in the immediate vicinity of the park. Throughout a large part of the year, entry into the park is by a park bus accessible from the visitor’s center. This center is located at White Rock, which is basically the top of Frijoles Canyon where the park is.
Bandelier has a long history, dating back to the ancient Puebloan cliff dwelling people. These peoples worked hard to live here and were here for about 400 years, from about 1100 AD -1450 AD. They created homes, many of which can still be seen and accessed. These homes were dug into the volcanic tuff, a soft but strong rock substance that is found as the canyon walls. They farmed and grew large agricultural plots on the tops of the cliffs, along the Pajarito Plateau. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet. They also used many native plants, including the cacti. Animals were killed for their meat and skins and the people had domesticated turkeys that were used for meat and for their feathers.
The thing that makes Bandelier special is that the trails take you through their dwellings. You walk through the major summer community that is estimated to have had about 400 rooms built around a central area. You walk up and down the rough paths to ladders that allow you to go up into storage rooms, dwelling areas, and other places carved out of the cliff face. There are lots of these cave-type openings to climb into. Inside, we can see writings and drawings, soot patterns, and even insects. Not many archeological sites are open like this. It is a special place to visit.
There is one site within the park that is above all else. Literally. Alcove House is built halfway up the cliff face and is accessible only by steep ladders. At over 140 feet above the canyon floor, Alcove House looks out across the valley and has a stunning view. It is estimated that a group of about 25 probably lived in this dwelling. There are viga holes (large supporting roof timbers) and a kiva all the way up here.
Whether or not you are up for the climb, if you can make it on the trail to be able to view Alcove House, it is worth it. It is an additional mile or so on the trail to get to the view of Alcove House but I always enjoy thinking about seeing the opening in the cliff, high above everything else.
I am sure there is a ton more I could write about Bandelier. It is worth the visit. Check out our visit from a couple of summers ago.
Situated on the Rio Grande River, the Bosque del Apache is a wildlife refuge run by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. There are over 50,000 acres for the wildlife and the area is a major migration stop and winter ground for a variety of species. Ducks, geese, and cranes are often spotted here.
Throughout the year, there are beautiful animals and sights to see on the Bosque. There is a page on their site that lets you know about which birds you are likely to see at what time of year, as well as what other animals you might encounter in the wildlife refuge.
These photos were taken back in November. You will find plenty of beautiful photos and videos on the Facebook page for Bosque del Apache. And no matter when you visit, you will find plenty of wildlife showing off the beauty God gave each of them.
Lori, At Home.
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