Monday, September 27, 2010

Puye Cliffs

Earlier this summer I toured the Puye Cliff Dwellings which are located near Los Alamos, about 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe.  Puye Cliffs was the ancestral home of the people of Santa Clara Pueblo from the 900s until about 1580, when they moved to the Rio Grande Valley.  According to pueblo legend, a black bear wandered through the village, harming no one, and led the people 10 miles away.  Historians say the move to the river was occasioned by drought.

This site, now a National Historic Landmark, was closed from 2000-2009 due to flooding and erosion resulting from the Cerro Grande fire, which caused major damage to the Los Alamos area.  It has only recently reopened to the public, and it was exciting to finally have an opportunity to visit this beautiful site.

We had a terrific tour by a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo who guided us up pathways and ladders from the bottom to the top of the mesa.

Puye Cliff markingsThe cliff dwellings are on two levels with the bottom row about a mile long and the top level about 2,100 feet in length.  Cliff marking are still visible like the one in the photo above.  Many of these markings were the equivalent of directional signs.  

Puye mesa
Paths and stairways connected the two levels and allowed residents to get to the top of the mesa where additional dwellings were located.  The mesa dwellings were in the form of a multi-story complex built around a central plaza, though only crumbling walls (like those shown to the left) remain.

An interesting feature of the site is one of the original Harvey Houses.  These were a chain of restaurants/hotels that serviced train (and later auto) travelers to the Southwest.  There were more than a dozen Harvey Houses in New Mexico, though this one at Puye was the only one built on an Indian reservation.  The mother of a friend of mine recalls dining in the Harvey House in Santa Fe when they took the train from California to Maine in 1931.
Former Harvey House at Puye Cliffs


Kate said...

It's been awhile since I've visited Puye, and instead I always go to Bandelier. Both places foster contemplation and offer a place for some spiritual reflection.

SantaFeKate said...

I have visited Bandelier and Tsankawi as well as Puye--but always in a group--not too much opportunity for reflection. . . . But I can appreciate that these are the kinds of places where it could happen!!

Anonymous said...

The ancestral home of the Santa Clara people may be travel and visit by guided tour to the ruin sites.