New Mexico Trip 2013

Cover picture on bluff
Jackie, Scott and Ken overlooking Chaco Canyon


The 2013 CSE trip was to New Mexico, where we investigated several themes, water management in a water-poor area, administration of public park land, effects of climate change on civilizations, and, intertwined throughout, the way the history of the many cultures in the region shape the present state of affairs.

Rio Grande and Water 

paige talk
Students discussing water management with a hydrologist from the N.M. Interstate Water Commission
Jackie, Sara and Kara looking at invasive and highly water-consumptive salt cedar in the Rio Grande bosque, Albuquerque

Early in the trip. We spent a morning with Albion Geology Field camp alumna Page Pegram, now with the Office of the State Engineer’s Interstate Water commission. Page met us in the bosque along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque and explained some of the complexities of complying with interstate water agreements, protecting endangered species and conserving as much water as possible for New Mexico residents.

Native American History and Cultures

Our look at the long and important history of Native Americans began with a visit to the Chaco Culture National Historic Park, arguably the most fabulous archeological site in North America and also one of the most enigmatic. Real questions persist, with discussion of both how the civilization flourished in such a demanding environment and why the area was ultimately abandoned. The relationships among people, culture and climate are central to this discussion. We also visited Bandelier National Monument where more recent Pueblo cliff dwellings are well preserved, and Sky City at Acoma Pueblo, where modern descendants of the Chacoans still live in the longest continuously inhabited community in the country. Finally, we visited the Four Corners Power Plant, one of the most polluting plants in the nation, and considered the complex relationship between the plant and the Navajo Nation, in which it is located.

Acoma Pueblo

"Sky City" of Acoma Pueblo is seen atop its 650 foot meas as we approach for our visit.  This site has been continuously inhabited for over 800 years.
Our tour of the pueblo included time to talk with local artists and shop their wares. Here Rachel is considering a traditional pot.
Acoma stairs
Although there is now access to the mesa top via a road constructed in the 1950's, the group opted to return to the base via older stairs cut into the rock.

Chaco Canyon

chaco from above
Pueblo Bonito is one of the best restored "great houses" in the canyon.
chaco in house
Jackie, Sara and Meredith in a room in Pueblo Bonito. Note the small size of the doorways and the lack of windows. Some people believe these indicate the rooms were storerooms for maize.
Chaco Cleft
Jackie follows a cleft to the top of the canyon on the trail to Pueblo Alto.
chaco on cliff copy
Scott, Jackie, Ken and Kara on the cliff behind Pueblo Bonito
Bonita house
View of Pueblo Bonito from the cliff behind it. The enigmatic "D" shape of the pueblo is evident.

Bandelier Archeology

Stairs to cliff In Cliff