Guaje Canyon: Archaeology and Fire on the Pajarito Plateau

Trip Leaders: Rory Gauthier and Dr. Craig Allen

Field Trip, Trip is Full

Friday, October 31, 2014, 8:00 am–4:00 pm

Guaje Ruin Kiva in 2005Guaje Ruin Kiva in 2005Photograph courtesy Rory Gauthier.
Guaje Ruin Kiva in 2005
Guaje Ruin Kiva in 1979, before the Cerro Grande FireGuaje Ruin Kiva in 1979, before the Cerro Grande FirePhotograph courtesy Rory Gauthier.
Guaje Ruin Kiva in 1979, before the Cerro Grande Fire

Archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewett is forever linked to the Pajarito Plateau in north-central New Mexico having first used the term “Pajarito” in his archaeological survey of this area from Puye to Frijoles Canyon in 1896. Guaje, Chupadero, and Garcia Canyons are the northern boundary of what was going to be Cliff Dwellers National Park, which Hewett proposed in the early 1900s to protect the Ancestral Puebloan ruins located on the mesa tops and carved into canyon walls. The size of the park was dramatically downsized and named Bandelier National Monument. The northern portion of the plateau, therefore, has not received the attention devoted to the national monument, and yet the evidence of Puebloan life in these remote canyons is an integral part of the Tewa story of this area.

One extensive group of ruins that we will visit lies on the high, narrow mesa north of Guaje Canyon. Here, at least seven ruins are spread along the crest of the mesa, including five kivas that are carved into the tufa bedrock. A string of fifty cavate rooms are found along the base of the canyon, which were accessible to the mesa village by hand- and toe-holds and carved stairs.

Archaeologist Rory Gauthier and research ecologist Dr. Craig Allen will be our expert guides on this hiking adventure. Rory Gauthier has extensively explored and recorded the prehistoric use of the Pajarito Plateau; and he provided the documentation and nomination for the Guaje archaeological site to the National Register of Historic Places. Dr. Allen works with USGS Jemez Mountains Field Station and has collaborated on research about global forest responses to climate change. He has a deep understanding of the environmental history of the southwestern United States, and has extensively studied many of the forest fires in the Jemez Mountains, including the 2000 Cerro Grande fire and the 2011 Las Conchas fire, which have had a tremendous long-term impact upon the landscape of the Pajarito Plateau.

Activity Level: Strenuous, includes hiking into an archaeological site with steep grades, crossing through two canyons with elevation gain and loss of 700 feet, for a total of 8 miles round-trip.

Cost (per person): $80, includes transportation from Santa Fe, a picnic lunch, and guide honorariums.

Trip Registration: You can register for an open field trip or be placed on the wait list for a filled trip by contacting Janie Miller at jmiller[at] or call (505) 954-7230. Please note, that placing your name on a trip wait list is a good way to get on a trip that is currently full, because we often get cancellations anywhere from a month to a day before the trip departs.

For more information, visit the Field Trips section.

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