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Bandelier to open popular archaeological site

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August 25, 2013 10:19 PM EST | AP

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — One of the most popular sites at Bandelier National Monument is set to reopen Monday.

Accessible only by a series wooden ladders and steep stone steps, the kiva at the Alcove House site is located at the edge of a niche some 14 stories above the canyon floor.

The site was closed in April due to concerns over structural stability of the kiva. The walls of the structure had loosened and there were other signs of severe erosion.

Although the kiva itself will remain closed, park officials said visitors will be able to climb the ladders that lead to the site and take in the view from 140 feet above the canyon floor.

"We will be glad to have Alcove House open again for visitors to enjoy, especially knowing that a serious safety hazard has been dealt with," Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott said.

Lott said there's still more work to be done to restore the kiva.

The repair crew has successfully removed the kiva's buttressing wall, revealing surfaces that had not been seen in 100 years. With the outer layer removed, the workers saw a combination of the original ancestral pueblo and stabilization work that was done more than a century ago.

The crew preserved what was there and re-mortared spaces where needed.

Park officials say visitors will be able to see the walls with the current repairs and mortar that has been in place since the 1400s.

Alcove House was first reconstructed in 1910, before the area was designated as a national monument. The site was further stabilized in the 1930s and then became an emblem of the monument when the Works Progress Administration created a poster featuring the Alcove House kiva.

The next stage will include replacing the kiva roof. Officials say sturdier roof beams will be arranged to distribute weight more evenly on the kiva walls. The work depends on the availability of funding.

Tucked into northern New Mexico's ancient canyons, Bandelier has a long human history that stretches back more than 10,000 years. Aside from Native Americans, Spanish settlers and the Civilian Conservation Corp centuries later also left their mark on the area. The park drew more than 150,000 visitors last year.