• Photo of the continental divide blanketed in snow. NPS Photo by VIP Schonlau

    Rocky Mountain

    National Park Colorado

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  • Old Fall River Road will be closed in 2014 due to flood damage

    Damages on Old Fall River Road are extensive and the road will remain closed to vehicles through 2014. It is unknown at this time whether hikers and bicyclists will be allowed on the road. More »

  • Impacts from September 2013 Flood

    Due to recent flooding, there are still some closures in the park that could affect your visit. More »

Fire History

a photo of Alberta Falls after 1900 fire

Alberta Falls after the fire of 1900

NPS Photo

During the early decades of mining and settlement, human-caused fires had a dramatic impact on the landscape. Many fires swept through what is now the national park between 1850 and the early 1900s. A walk around Bear Lake or a drive along Glacier Creek passes through forests that regenerated after large fires at the turn of the century.

Soon after Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915, a period of fire suppression began. Because all fires were thought to be harmful, they were put out. With fire suppression, montane forests became denser and more susceptible to severe crown fires. The health of the forests declined. Growing in dense stands, trees did not receive the nutrients, sun, or water necessary for vigorous growth. Weakened trees became more susceptible to pests such as the spruce budworm and mountain pine beetle.

Under natural conditions, fires burn unevenly across the landscape. In all but the driest years, most fires are limited. Frequent small fires reduce the amount of dead wood and limit more hazardous fires from burning out of control.

Did You Know?

a photo of treeline in Rocky Mountain National Park

If the current amount of total nitrogen deposition measured at the high-elevation monitoring site in Rocky Mountain National Park (3 kg/ha/yr) was the same throughout the park, the amount of airborne nitrogen entering the park would be equivalent to 35,500 twenty-pound bags of fertilizer. More...