Multistory dwellings at Bandelier. Rock wall foundations and beam holes and cavates carved into tuff from upper floors.

Three months after the largest wildfire ever recorded on New Mexico state records, the National Parks Service (NPS) has reopened sections of the Bandelier National Monument to visitors. “The fire which began on June 26, burned over 60% of the park and altered much of the park landscape.”

The visitor center, which contained the largest concentration of prehistoric culture sites, not only survived the fire but also post-fire flooding that sent ash, sediment, and charred debris into the heart of the monument. The archaeological sites, administration building and gift shop likely escaped damage because they’re built on higher ground.

There are, however, major concerns about the long-term ecological impacts of the fire. The 244-square-mile blaze reduced a great swath of mountainsides and canyons to ash and blackened trees leaving no vegetation behind. All but 1,000 acres of the 12,000-acre upper Frijoles watershed burned.

Since Bandelier will continue to be at the mercy of Mother Nature, park officials said they decided to limit visitor activity in the canyon to assure safety.  And, on the assumption that there aren’t any additional fires next year, it’s expected to be another two years to get back normal when the ecosystem and landscape stabilizes.

Currently buses run seven days a week until October and by November, when the tourist season wanes, the parks will be open to visitors again to make the drive on their own down the scenic canyon. More trails are expected to reopen later in the fall.

Here’s a link to the National Park Service Bandelier National Monument to see a list of what’s open.

Here too is a link to Wikipedia to learn more about Bandelier National Monument.


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