The Park isn't Burning Down

Smokey Sunrise over Sprague Lake

This year is one of those really dry years and in combination with high winds, wildfires are always possible.  We recently had about 20 homes catch fire at the western edge of Estes Park.  That fire lasted only a few hours and the local fire departments did an amazing job saving as many homes as possible.  We all are keeping those folks who lost homes and cherished memories in our hearts.  But it is important to know that the park is fine and the fires around Colorado are not limiting your Rocky Mountain National Park experience at all.

We can see a plume of smoke most days from the High Park Fire to our northeast (which is near Fort Collins), but that smoke is blowing east.  Most mornings when you look east you can see the smoke layer way out over the great plains.  This picture of Sprague Lake shows that well.  But in the park we haven't seen smoke except for two days with odd winds blowing in from the plains east to west (typically the wind blows west to east). 

Wildfire, though destructive to homes, is actually very natural and extremely beneficial to the ecosystems of the Rockies.  Fires have burned in our forests nearly every 200-400 years, and it is nature's reset button.  As soon as that ash cools, a vast variety of plant seeds that have been sitting dormant in the soil start to take off.  Flowers like Fireweed, Locoweed, and Lupine will start growing from the ashes.  Lodge Pole Pines have cones specially designed for fire, called serotinous cones that open after temps reach around about 150 degrees F, and they will replant the forest.  Eventually the forest will regrow completely and years from now, those burnt areas will be vibrant and healthy.

Guest post by Jared Gricoskie of Yellow Wood Guiding.  To schedule a tour of Rocky Mountain National Park visit YWGuiding.com.