Main Loop Trail Stop 3
NPS Photo by Stella Carroll
Frijoles Creek (El Rito de los Frijoles or “the little river of beans,” is a permanent stream. It is one of the few places on the Plateau where water flows year round. In extreme drought the waters of the creek may not reach the Rio Grande 2.5 miles downstream. However, it is rare when water does not run in this part of Frijoles Canyon. A reliable source of water must have been very important to the Ancestral Pueblo people. The stream provided them with water for drinking and cooking, and also encouraged the wide range of plant life and diversity of wildlife found here.
Native plants played an important role in Ancestral Pueblo life. Even with the transition to agriculture, extensive use of native plants continued. Ponderosa pines, growing tall and straight, provided the ceiling beams, also called vigas, for homes. Yucca, with its broad stiff leaves and large white flowers, offered fibers for sandals, baskets, and rope. The Ancestral Pueblo people made an all-purpose soap from yucca roots and ate the tasty yucca flowers. Knowledge of plant uses was passed down through the generations using oral traditions, which continue today.