Back to "Monthly Program History"

January 25, 2012

"How I spent my Summer"

by Jason Lott
NPS Superintendent/New Mexico State Coordinator

Jason will speak about impacts of last summer's Las Conchas fire on Bandelier National Monument, and present a slide show to show us exactly what happened as a result, and what is being done to bring the park back.  He will also discuss the Marijuana Garden eradication, the Bus Program, and plans for 2012.

All the major watersheds within Bandelier were heavily impacted by the fire including Frijoles Canyon, where the visitor center and main visited archeological sites are located. Over 75% of Frijoles Canyon lay within the fire's footprint, much of it burned with high severity.

Frijoles Creek at Upper Crossing after the fire.
Photo by NPS

With much of the vegetation removed and the ground vitrified in some areas where the fire burned extremely hot, fear of flash flooding in the park's canyons was a call to action.

On August 21st the parks flooding fears were realized. Heavy rains in the Jemez Mountains lead to widespread flooding in all of the east facing canyons including Frijoles Canyon. Flood protection put into place held and damage to the park's newly renovated visitor center was light. Damage to other park resources was more significant. The Falls Trail was one of many trails impacted by the flooding. The impact for this trail was catastrophic. A ledge that held the trail near Lower Falls collapsed, leaving no access via Frijoles Canyon to the Rio Grande.

Frijoles Creek after the flood.
Photo by Sally King

For the peak season of 2012 (April to October) decisions must be made as to how the park can best serve the public. The threat of severe flooding is not just a thing of the past. Even so as time passes wildlife is starting to reoccupy areas of the park recently impacted by fire. Some including turkey vultures and coyotes are flourishing as their food sources became more available. Others such as black bear may not come back to the park for quite some time. Some like Jemez Mountain salamanders and Goat Peak Pika may never be found in the park again. Research is underway to chart the progress of the recovery. Plants like oaks and lupines are sprouting/blooming within the fires perimeter. At the park we are seeing first hand that time heals all wounds. But we wonder, in a place etched by fire when will the park be affected by fire again.

Back to "Monthly Program History"

Send your trip reports, comments, updates, and suggestions about this site to
Jan Studebaker

Website Design by Jemez Web Factory