Hiking Below Lower Falls

I only had the privilege of visiting Bandelier National Monument once before the floods of 2013. If I didn’t have the photos from that trip, I wouldn’t realize how different Frijoles Canyon looks today. After moving to Los Alamos, one of the first hikes I took was in Bandelier. I heard people rave about the waterfalls of Frijoles Creek and wanted to see them for myself. However, I encountered large signs warning me about the landslide that washed out the trail to the Lower Falls. I remained determined to see the Lower Falls, and heard one could access them from another direction. Today, rather than a relatively easy hike down Frijoles Canyon, you must take the “scenic” route to visit the Lower Falls!

Another intrepid traveler and I began at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Powerline Mesa Trail just as the sun peeked over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the distance. We connected with the Ancho Springs Trail, and a little over an hour later we made it to the Rio Grande. A merganser floated by us heading in the same direction—downstream to Frijoles Canyon. It was a frigid morning, but the sun finally crept into canyon bottom when we were about halfway to our destination.

By the time we made it to Frijoles Canyon, all thoughts of being cold vanished with the mid-day sun. We shed layers as we began hopping from boulder to boulder. Lower Frijoles Canyon is littered with rocks of all sizes, forming barriers and obstacles for the creek’s journey to the Rio Grande. The evidence from the flood is everywhere. Sticks, trees, and brush formed piles along with the rocks. We picked our way through the debris and finally heard the crashing of falling water. After rounding a bend, we stood in an amphitheater with the Lower Falls in front of us. My hiking partner pointed out the place where the trail once stood, now a sheer rock face scoured away by the floodwaters.

After a quick lunch sitting atop a boulder at the base of the falls, we began our long journey back to our vehicle. At the end of the day, we hiked close to 15 miles, but I am finally able to say that I’ve seen the Lower Falls of Bandelier! While this hike is much different than before, it made for a sensational journey and the natural landscape restoration is evident.  Along the way we passed through some of the most beautiful portions of White Rock Canyon, touched the colorful geology of Frijoles Canyon, and witnessed a Golden Eagle soar overhead. Bandelier is such an amazing place for new discoveries and exciting adventures.

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Pajarito Plateau Native Bee Survey

With support from the Friends of Bandelier, Dr. Olivia Carril began the first-ever native bee survey of Bandelier National Monument in 2017, with collections made near St. Peter's Dome, across Burnt Mesa, near Cerro Grande, and in Frijoles Canyon. All specimens have been labeled, and identifications are approximately half completed. Dr. Carril will continue identifications during the winter of 2018 and will resume collections in the spring and summer of 2018. 

So far, 483 specimens have been collected to date, and hint at an incredibly diverse fauna. Prior to the current study, only two species had been documented for Los Alamos County (a bumble bee, Bombus, and a sweat bee, Halictus ligatus). Over 46 species have been added to what is known for Los Alamos County from the current study, including at least three species of bumble bees (Bombus), leaf cutter bees (Megachile), resin bees (Anthidium), two genera of Cactus-specializing bees (Lithurgopsis and Diadasia), green metallic sweat bees (Agapostemon), and several sweat bees (Lasioglossum). Specimens from the genus Osmia were documented near Cerro Grande, and a unique, as yet unidentified small mining bee (Perdita) was found near the visitor's center in Frijoles Canyon.  

Plans for 2018 include the establishment of plots at Burnt Mesa, in the burned area of the Dome Wilderness on the west side of the monument, along the riparian area in Frijoles Canyon, and along the Alamo Boundary trail.

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Tinware in the Bandelier CCC National Historic Landmark District

Nearly 300 pieces of handcrafted tinware light fixtures were made for the Frijoles Canyon Lodge and NPS headquarters at the park in the late 1930s. Some were made according to architects’ plans, while others were CCC craftsmen designed. There are 34 unique styles of tinware here at Bandelier! Throughout the historic district, these significant historic objects are one of the park’s many wonderful assets. Because of the fragile nature of the aging tinware, and due to the fact that many pieces like mirrors and table lamps were made for the old Lodge, most of the collection is stored off-site at an NPS museum repository. Several dozen exterior light fixtures remain installed in the historic district, however. Over the years, the park has worked to keep them in good repair and to replace them as they age. In the latter case, the original is removed for cleaning and storage, and we commission a local craftsman to do the reproduction. We are due for another round of repair, conservation, and reproduction. Our current goal is to remove and reproduce 13 fixtures that are directly exposed to weather and sun.

The initial restoration of the fixtures will be funded by the Friends of Bandelier. We hope to solicit sponsors for the restoration of additional fixtures in the coming months.

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