Western Trips

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Attractions in New Mexico / Cliff Dwellings


northern new mexico
Beautiful valley view from Puye Cliff Dwellings
Travel attractions in New Mexico are everywhere. For the southwest American tourist, New Mexico is filled with an abundance of great historical sites.

New Mexico pueblo culture dates back several centuries and along with the pueblos many people visit annually are sites of long ago cave ruins. The cave dwelling peoples occupied northern New Mexico as well as the Four Corners area in the northwestern part of the state.

Puye Cliff Dwellings

One very interesting site to  visit, and well worth it, are the Puye Cliff Dwellings just a short drive northwest of Santa Fe. The ancestors of the modern day Santa Clara Pueblo residents at one time made the Puye Cliff Dwellings home. Pueblo Indians inhabited this area from about 900 AD up to the year 1580, about the time that the Spaniards started to colonize Nuevo Mexico. Other cliff dwelling sites were established on the Pajarito Plateau about the same time.

puye cliff dwellings
Puye Cliff Dwellings, NM
The Puye Cliff  Dwellings consist of two levels of dwellings as well as surface structures. The first level is about one mile long and the second level about 2,100 feet. The cliff dwellings were carved out of volcanic rock. At one time there was an estimated 1,500 people residing at Puye. Today the site is a National Historic Landmark.

The site that you'll visit has been an historical attraction for decades. Puye Cliffs is located on the Santa Clara Pueblo Indian Reservation west of Espanola, New Mexico. When you visit this site you'll see an old restored Harvey House which was erected in the 1930's during the era of Fred Harvey motor coach tours in northern New Mexico. Today, the old Harvey House is utilized as an interpretive center.

The Santa Clara Pueblo is located about ten miles to the east of the cave dwellings. Historians believe that the eventual exodus from the cliffs to the east was due to severe drought conditions. Puye Cliff Dwellings are the ruins of the "post Anasazi" era. It's not entirely understood why, but when the pueblo peoples abandoned Chaco Canyon New Mexico and Mesa Verde Colorado, they moved in several directions and inhabited other cliffs in smaller groups. For those traveling in the southwestern Colorado area, a trip to the stunning Mesa Verde National Park is a must to witness more of the cave dwelling examples.

puye cliff dwellings harvey house
Old Harvey House entrance to Cliffs
Following are links to three additional Western Trips photo articles you'll enjoy. Scenic and Historic Jemez Springs ... Los Alamos Laboratory Historic Site. and Some Great Stops Along Old Route 66.

Visiting Puye Cliff Dwellings

One of the great things about touring northern New Mexico, particularly between Santa Fe and Taos, is the number of historic landmarks.

Very near to the Puye Cliff Dwellings is Bandelier National Monument which among other things features cave dwellings cut into it's rocks. Bandelier National Monument is just a twenty-four mile drive southwest of the Puye Cliffs Welcome Center.

los alamos historical museum
Los Alamos Historical Museum
Los Alamos New Mexico is only about a 16 mile drive west of Puye Cliffs and features both the Bradbury Science Museum and the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory National Historic Landmark District, established by the National Park Service.

Further west about 38 miles from Los Alamos is Jemez Springs which is noted for it's natural hot springs baths and the ancient Indian ruins that you can explore and stroll through.

Puye Cliff Dwellings Guided Tours

To begin your trip to Puye Cliffs, purchase tickets at the Welcome Center located at Hwy 30 and Puye Cliff Road. This is at the bottom and across the Rio Grande from historic Black Mesa. The cliff dwellings are about seven miles further west of the Welcome Center on Puye Cliff Road. On your drive to the Puye Cliff Dwellings you'll enjoy the expansive views of the Santa Clara Native Americans' historic areas. This is quite a scenic part of New Mexico.

Guided tours of the cliff dwellings are offered by knowledgeable guides who'll direct you along a steep paved trail from the Harvey House to a level of dwellings and ruins on the face of the cliff. Another guided tour offered is the ride to the top of the mesa. The tour covers how ancestral Tewa people used to live hundreds of years ago. It's a very educational tour and van access is available. You'll also find interesting exhibits in the Old Harvey House.

If you're searching for one of a kind attractions in New Mexico, a visit to the unique Puye Cliff Dwellings is a perfect add on stop while visiting the Santa Fe and Taos area.

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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