Bandelier’s Entrance Road is covered in mud. Photo by Luke Gommermann/NPS
Mud and debris flow into parking lot. Photo by Luke Gommermann/NPS
Around 11:45 p.m. Thursday, July 25, law enforcement rangers began receiving warnings that heavy rains would soon cause flooding in Frijoles Canyon at Bandelier National Monument.
“Staff drove down into the canyon to make sure protection was in place including closing a gate that protects Bandelier’s Visitor Center from high water, “Chief Ranger Tom Betts said.
By 12:30 a.m., staff observed water flowing into the canyon at a height between 5-8 feet high and covering the parking lot. Staff witnessing the event estimated that it was about three-fourths the size of the 2011 flood that closed Frijoles Canyon after the Las Conchas Fire. In some areas, water reached high water marks from flooding two years ago.
Bandelier employees arrived this morning to begin clean up and anticipate opening Frijoles Canyon by Saturday July 27. Opening is delayed due to a broken water line. The Bandelier Shuttle operated by a partnership with Atomic City Transit will begin leaving the White Rock Visitor Center as soon as crews feel that the canyon is safe for visitors.
The flooding in 2011 decreased the already limited parking in Frijoles Canyon prompting the partnership with Atomic City Transit. The shuttle allows people to access the canyon throughout the late summer monsoon season without risk of their vehicle being caught in a high water event. The shuttle has also allowed monument staff to better prepare for visitor evacuation in case of a flood.
Bandelier trails outside of Frijoles Canyon remain open. Visitors should be cautious of hiking in canyon bottoms since flooding can cause hazards such as tree snags and slick conditions. The water washed out bridges on the trail to Alcove House and the Falls Trail. When Frijoles Canyon re-opens expect muddy and wet conditions while crossing the creek.
For further information on the flooding event and current conditions please call the Visitor Center at 505-672-3861 ext. 517.
Main Loop Trail. Photo by Luke Gommermann/NPS