• Long House in Frijoles Canyon

    Bandelier

    National Monument New Mexico

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  • Access by Shuttle Bus Only

    Through October 27, 2014 all access to the most visited part of the park, Frijoles Canyon, will be via a mandatory shuttle bus from the nearby community of White Rock from 9 AM - 3 PM daily. Private cars may drive in before 9 AM or after 3 PM. More »

Main Loop Trail Stop 2

Main Loop Trail Stop 2

The canyon walls are volcanic tuff formed by two eruptions of the Jemez Volcano

NPS Photo by Stella Carroll

The canyon-and-mesa country around you is part of the Pajarito Plateau, formed by two violent eruptions of the Jemez (HAY-mess) Volcano over one million years ago. Located fourteen miles to the northwest, this powerful volcano ejected enough material to cover this four hundred square-mile area with a layer of volcanic ash up to one thousand feet thick. Each of the two Jemez eruptions was six hundred times more powerful than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

The pink rock of the canyon wall may look like sandstone but it is actually volcanic ash that compacted over time into a soft, crumbly rock called tuff. Tuff is very easily eroded by the action of wind and rain. Some components of the tuff erode more easily than others. Over time the exposed rock takes on a “swiss cheese” appearance. Ancestral Pueblo people used tools to enlarge some of the small natural openings in the cliff face. The soft rock made excellent building material. Stone dwellings were constructed in front of these enlarged openings.

Frijoles Canyon lies in an area where numerous volcanic eruptions have shaped the landscape. Other local volcanic activity provided harder stones such as obsidian and basalt. The Ancestral Pueblo people used these materials for tools and as trade items.

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Did You Know?

Lesser Goldfinch mom feeds fledgling

Baby birds often leave the nest before they can really fly. That's because the nest is the most dangerous place for the young bird to stay.