Updated: Friday, 05 Nov 2010, 10:02 PM MDT
Published : Friday, 29 Oct 2010, 10:41 PM MDT
PAJARITO PLATEU, NM (KRQE) - After months of being closed for a road paving project, the iconic and spectacular pedestal rock formations of Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument are finally open to the public again.
The monument rests on the southeastern flanks of the Jemez Mountains, southwest of Santa Fe.
As he gazes across the towering rocky spires of the monument, Cochiti Pueblo Assistant War Chief Wilbert Naranjo is proud.
"When you walk in the canyon," he mused, "it's just like walking among our ancestors, amongst our spiritual leaders giving us that wisdom, that guidance, that leadership we all look for."
Scores of gravel, ash and sand "tent rocks," also known as "hoodoos," fill the landscape.
The formations were carved out of dozens of layers of ash, sand and rocks deposited by the Jemez volcanoes about six to seven million years ago.
Water and wind helped create colorful stratified bands in the walls and pedestal rock formations.
Naranjo said it's all a natural and beneficial process.
"The wind and rain make things grow," he said. "They make all of our crops grow. They make people grow.
"This place is alive. It breathes. It's got life. Therefore, the wind and the rain only help it to grow."
Ann Ka-hee, a teacher at Cochiti Pueblo described the tent rocks as a very sacred area.
"Our ancestors and our spirits are here, and they surround us," she said. "And so we come up here almost with a reverence to this place."
Ka-hee also uses the Kasha-Katawe area to bring kids to learn about their native culture.
"A lot of it is hands-on, and this is one place that we come to teach them," she said. "Our way of teaching the children is all oral. The language is not written."
"There's not another place like this anyplace in the world. This is so unique to us, and this makes us who we are as Cochiti people."
The monument is run jointly by Cochiti Pueblo and the Bureau of Land Management.
BLM regional director Ed Singleton said the site is unique geologically.
"I've been told by geologists that the only other significant forms, hoodoo forms like these, exist in the Middle East, so you'd have to travel very far to see them," he said.
BLM and Cochiti Pueblo won a federal stimulus funding grant to pave the old dirt road to the monument. It was often washed out and too rough for passenger cars to travel.
There is some concern that traffic will increase and some visitors will not show the respect appropriate for such a place.
Naranjo said he hopes those who come here will help protect it.
"This is the church we were given," he said. "Us Native Americans, we pray in this place. And as such we would want those visitors to come with respect and leave with only what is in their minds and what photographs that they take."
Cochiti Field Manager Floyd Pecos said he imagines the past when he walks the trails at Kasha-Katuwe.
"You kind of think about all those times when our people were the only ones here," he said. "I think about those times you know."
The monument is expanding. A new trail and other facilities are being built at the Veteran's Overlook site a couple of miles west of the main parking area.