Tuesday, Jul 19, 2011
Several areas of Bandelier National Monument reopened to visitors on Friday, July 15th, after a closure of nearly three weeks. The entire monument was closed to the public as a result of the Las Conchas Fire, which began on June 26th. Since that time, park staff and the Intermountain all risk incident management team have been working diligently to resolve safety issues and threats to valuable resources in order to resume park operations. The areas reopened last Friday were the Tsankawi Unit, Juniper Campground and Amphitheater, Overlook Trail, and Burnt Mesa Trail. With many trails in the surrounding area still closed due to fire danger, Bandelier received heavy visitation over the weekend. Visitors at the Tsankawi Unit were very appreciative of improvements to the parking area, which is being upgraded to safely accommodate the additional traffic that is anticipated. The remainder of the monument is still closed in the aftermath of the fire, which burned 20,800 acres of Bandelier. The severity of the fire resulted in a loss of vegetation that provides soil stabilization and caused a water-repellent condition in the soil. With the monsoon season beginning, these conditions could lead to devastating floods in Frijoles Canyon, where the park’s visitor center, administrative offices, and a large number of cultural and historic sites are located. Diversion dikes, waterproof barriers and sandbags have been installed to mitigate the potential damage from flooding. The decision to implement flood mitigation measures, remove bridges, and close the facilities in Frijoles Canyon was validated by a recent flood in a nearby canyon that resulted in numerous mud flows containing rocks and woody debris that reached a height of six feet on standing trees.