Bandelier National Monument’s human history extends back for over 10,000 years when nomadic hunter-gatherers followed migrating wildlife across the mesas and canyons of New Mexico. Between 1150 and 1550 CE, Ancestral Pueblo erected permanent settlements whose remains give us clues about their lives and culture. Built along the base of a cliff, the homes at Long House stood three to four stories high. The cliff face and remaining structures are decorated with hundreds of petroglyphs showing a variety of subjects. A visit here is like traveling back in time. Photo by Sally King, National Park Service.
Our nation’s first national monument, Devils Tower was established on this day in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt. Unforgettable to all who see it, this ancient volcanic column rises above the rolling grasslands in eastern Wyoming like a sentinel. Northern Plains Tribes have lived and held ceremonies near this remarkable geologic formation for thousands of years, and today, many tribes continue to hold traditional ceremonies at the park. The rock tower was called “Bear’s Lodge” and “Bear’s Tipi” by the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Crow and Lakota tribes. Made famous in the 1977 movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the monument holds an undeniable attraction to many people. Photo by National Park Service.
Mesa Verde means “green table,” but winter snows have turned most of Mesa Verde National Park white. Over 5,000 archaeological sites in the park help tell the story of the Pueblo people, who lived more than 700 years ago in what we now call Colorado. Spruce Tree House, seen here, is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in the country and an astounding sight from Chapin Mesa overlook. Photo by National Park Service.
Spreading across Long Valley in California, the Volcanic Tablelands are a vast and unique landscape formed 700,000 years ago. Small canyons and bluffs dot the mostly flat area, offering amazing night sky views. Carved into the gray, red and pink rocks are extraordinary petroglyphs, mysterious symbols created by Native Americans centuries ago. Archaeologists can only speculate on their meaning. Photo of Bureau of Land Management site by Brandon Yoshizawa (www.sharetheexperience.org).
The first rays of the sun rises over the Jim Sage Mountains and illuminate the granite spires of Castle Rocks, Idaho. This little known gem located near the Utah border packs spectacular scenery and diverse natural features into a compact area. Granite spires rise up to 400 feet above the mixed aspen, fir and pinon pine forest. Single-leaf pinon (shown in photo) is relatively rare in Idaho and is a traditional food source to area Native Americans. The area is of great importance to the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes of Fort Hall and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley who have worked with the Bureau of Land Management to protect sensitive resources here. The adjoining Castle Rocks State Park offers developed camping, hiking trails and other visitor amenities with expansive vistas of the spectacular rock formations and surrounding mountain ranges. The area served as a landmark along the California and Oregon National Historic Trails. Photo by Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management, @mypubliclands
On this day in 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt established Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado to “preserve the works of man.” It was the first national park of its kind, created to protect not just the natural beauty of the area but also the priceless cultural treasures found there. Mesa Verde preserves nearly 5,000 archaeological sites, including Cliff Palace, the largest cliff dwelling in the park. Visitors can explore these ancient buildings and imagine what life was like for the people who built them. Photo by Scott Reynolds (www.sharetheexperience.org).