Rio Grande Cane Prescribed Fire Reduces Exotic Fuels in Big Bend National Park

The Rio Grande Cane prescribed fire in March 2014 reduced exotic fuels, loss of diversity, and flooding risk along the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. An international and interagency crew worked the fire. The National Park Service is working to maintain and restore resilient landscapes.

A firefighter stands near the bank of a river observing a fire.
Monitoring the progress of the Rio Grande Cane prescribed fire by canoe.

NPS / Saguaro Wildland Fire Module

60-acre Prescribed Fire

A firefighter in a canoe on the river observes fire on the riverbank.
Monitoring the progress of the Rio Grande Cane prescribed fire by canoe.

NPS / Saguaro Wildland Fire Module

On March 25 and 26, 2014, National Park Service fire managers conducted the 60-acre Rio Grande Cane prescribed fire along the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park.

The prescribed fire was conducted to reduce exotic fuels within the river’s floodplain, specifically tamarisk and giant river cane. Over the past decades, these exotic species began to dominate riparian areas along the Rio Grande, leading to increased fuels, loss of diversity, and channelization of the river corridor. During times of high water, this channelization has led to increased flooding impacts, damaging park infrastructure such as roadways, trails, and campgrounds. Additionally, these exotic species consume large amounts of water.

Success

River, large flames on riverbank, and small nearby community.
Burning cane along the Rio Grande. The structures are part of Boquillas, Mexico, home to many of the Los Diablos fire crew.

NPS / A. Etheridge

The Rio Grande Cane fire was considered a success, removing much of the aboveground biomass of these problematic exotic species from the river’s edge. With old growth removed by burning, follow-up herbicide treatments of new growth are significantly more effective.

Fire personnel on this burn included interdisciplinary staff from Big Bend National Park, the Saguaro Wildland Fire Module, the NPS deputy regional fire management officer, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Texas A&M Forest Service, and the Los Diablos Fire Crew.

The international Los Diablos Fire Crew are residents of the villages in nearby Chihuahua and Coahuila, Mexico, and have worked with Big Bend National Park to assist with wildfires, prescribed burns, and other resource management projects since 1991. They also support the interagency community nationwide, including incidents from downtown New York City to the California coast.

Contact: David Elkowitz, Public Information Officer
Email: e-mail us
Phone: (432) 477-1107