USFS Logo In the Land of the Ancient Cliff Dweller
Bandelier National Monument
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Prepared by the FOREST SERVICE.

The Bandelier National Monument offers the visitor a rare combination of scenic beauty and antiquarian interest. West of the Rio Grande at Buckman, N. Mex., but 1,000 feet above it, lies the Pajarito Plateau, a rolling yellow-pine country cut by deep canyons that lead down to the river. One of these canyons contains a pretty little mountain stream, the Rito de los Frijoles. Between picturesque cliffs and canyon walls this stream literally tumbles into the Rio Grande over many falls, two of them 80 feet high. On a little flat bordering this stream, where fields were available close by, some prehistoric man established his communal house, his dwellings in the cliffs, and his kivas—the village of Tyuonyi. Others of his people lived in villages on the Pajarito Plateau and in near-by canyons, where natural defenses made their habitations more secure. Long ago these people disappeared, but the ruins of their cities have remained.

To preserve these relics of a vanished race, which are of unusual ethnological and educational interest, President Wilson on February 11, 1916, set aside the areas containing the most important ruins on Government land as a national monument bearing the name of the scientist who investigated and described them—Adolph F. Bandelier. These areas are within the Santa Fe National Forest, and, like other national monuments within national forests, are under the jurisdiction of the forest service, one of the bureaus of the United States Department of Agriculture. A custodian, who protects the ruins from vandalism and who will give information, aid, and advice to visitors, lives in the canyon on the banks of the Rito de los Frijoles.

The following brief sketch of the life work of Doctor Bandelier has been supplied by Dr. Edgar L. Hewett, director of the School of American Research at Santa Fe:

Adolph F. Bandelier, the distinguished archaeologist whose name has been given to the national monument described in this booklet, was a native of Berne, Switzerland. He was born in 1840 and came to America in early youth. His work in the Southwest began in 1880 under the auspices of the Archaeological Institute of America. His explorations for five years, mainly on foot, covered a considerable part of New Mexico and Arizona and extended into Mexico and Central America. He resided in Santa Fe from 1885 to 1892, and during that period produced the works that link his name forever with this region. His reports are the authentic guidebooks on the history and archaeology of the Southwest. Every one who visits the Rito will want to read his ethnological novel, "The Delight Makers," and will rejoice that the name of Bandelier, one of the most lovable of the great men who have lived and worked in the Southwest, has been given to the charming spot that was made so romantic by his pen.

Bandelier's history and archaeological researches extended from New Mexico to Peru. He served with great distinction the Archaeological Institute of America, the Hemenway Archaeological Expedition, the American Museum of Natural History, the Hispanic Society, Columbia University, the School of American Research, and the Carnegie Institution. While in Spain engaged in research work for the last-named institution, Bandelier died in the city of Seville in March, 1914. His monument will be near the Rito de los Frijoles, and he himself will never cease to be a gentle, genial, inspiring memory to all who knew him.


These pictures of an interesting corner of the Pajarito Plateau and along the Rito de Los Frijoles show but a few of the scenes of like enchantment which exist in the "most interesting 50-mile square" in the United States, surrounding old Santa Fe. Many ancient ruins other than those mentioned here may be explored, both of the prehistoric Indian dwellers in this region and of the early Spanish residents. Modern pueblos with their picturesque life are numerous along the Rio Grande; native Spanish-American life and architecture abound. For those interested in the timber-covered mountains and trout streams a totally different region from the Pajarito will be found on the Pecos Division of the Santa Fe National Forest, just to the east of Santa Fe.

Map showing the location of Pajarito region and routes of travel. (click on image for a PDF version)


Santa Fe, the capital of New Mexico, is reached by a branch line of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway from the main line at Lamy. From there one may travel by motor to the brink of the canyon of the Rito de los Frijoles, a distance of 45 miles. From the Rito one may go on foot or horseback to other places of interest. The ruins of Otowi and Tsankawi, located on the Santa Fe-Rito de los Frijoles road, may also be reached by automobile.

A branch line of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad from Denver to Santa Fe passes through Otowi Station, which is on the automobile route from Santa Fe to the Rito. There are no accommodations at this point, and passengers traveling over this route should make arrangements for auto transportation in advance, either by communicating with the secretary of the chamber of commerce at Santa Fe or with the Frijoles Canyon Ranch management, whose address is Santa Fe, N. Mex.

Automobiles for trips to the Bandelier National Monument may be obtained at reasonable rates either at Santa Fe or at the hotel on the Rito de los Frijoles. There is telephone service between these points.


There is a small ranch hotel on the banks of the Rito. Saddle horses may be obtained there.


You may camp anywhere you wish on the national monument or on the adjoining national forest, except on areas immediately adjacent to the hotel near the Rito, which are held under permit by the hotel management. The custodian, who lives about one-half mile above the hotel, will gladly show you where camping places are available. You will find many attractive locations.

As water is scarce in this country, it is advisable to carry sufficient for camp use. You may camp in the canyon of the Rito de los Frijoles, but it will be necessary to carry your camp equipment on your back, as there is no road. There is, however, an excellent foot path, and cars may be parked among the pines at the brink of the canyon some 600 feet above the creek. If you camp at the top near your car, you will probably find it most convenient to fill your canteen before leaving Santa Fe, or in Guaje Canyon after crossing the Rio Grande.

Campers and others are requested to burn or bury their refuse, and are cautioned not to start forest fires. Camp fires should never be left unattended, and when campers are leaving they should extinguish fires completely by covering them with earth or drenching them thoroughly with water. Many fires are started by smokers. It is safer not to smoke in the woods during dry seasons; but if you do smoke, be sure the fire of your match, cigar, or cigarette is out before you throw it away.


The communal house.

The cliff ruins.

The ceremonial cave.

The upper and lower falls.

The gorge of the Rio Grande del Norte at the mouth of the Rito.

The stone lions of Cochiti and the ancient ruins of Yapashi near by.

The painted cave.

The ruins of Otowi and Tsankawi.

The stone tents.

It should be noted that along the Rito de los Frijoles there are many excavations and restorations of talus pueblos, cliff ruins, and kivas. Some of the tools, implements, and simple household equipment of the former inhabitants have been restored as they were centuries ago. This is the work of the School of American Research, of Santa Fe.


The Delight Makers, by Adolph F. Bandelier. A romance of the ancient dwellers along the Rito de los Frijoles.

The Ethnography of the Tewa Indians, by John P. Harrington, Bureau of American Ethnology.

Physiography of the Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico, by E. L. Hewett, J. Henderson, and W. W. Robbins, Bureau of American Ethnology.

Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians, by W. W. Robbins, J. P. Harrington and B. Feire-Marreco.

Antiquities of the Jemez Plateau, by E. L. Hewett, Bureau of American Ethnology.

The Pajaritan Culture, by E. L. Hewett. Papers of the School of American Research.

The Cave Pictographs of Rito de los Frijoles, by Kenneth M. Chapman. Papers of the School of American Research.

Art and Archaeology, national monuments number, July-August, 1920.

The Bandelier National Monument, American Forestry, September, 1921.


The forest supervisor at Santa Fe, N. Mex., who has charge of the Bandelier National Monument, gladly furnishes tourists with information concerning the roads, camping places, and similar matters. Information about the ruins may be obtained from the New Mexico Archaeological Society at Santa Fe, whose museum is well worth visiting in connection with a trip to the Rito de los Frijoles. The Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce also gives information.

At the Rito de los Frijoles tourists should not fail to get in touch with the custodian. He will be able to tell them many things that will help to make their trip more enjoyable.

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Last Updated: 25-Jan-2008