Fire scars mark the ponderosa pines along this section of the trail. Fire plays an important role in the ecology of an area. The natural fire cycle promoted the growth of fire-resistant ponderosa pines, thinned the understory trees, and maintained grass and herbaceous (non-woody) groundcovers. This groundcover stabilized the soil and was grazed by many of the native animals. Before 1880, fires of varying size and intensity burned through the area at an average interval of about
By the turn of the century heavy domestic livestock grazing had reduced the volume of fire-carrying grasses. Fires of all kinds were actively fought and put out. Without recurring natural fires, the ecological balance of the area was altered. Increased soil erosion is one serious consequence of the resulting vegetation changes.
Today park managers systematically reintroduce fire into this fire-dependent landscape using prescribed burns which are carefully planned and carried out. This particular area has been burned several times since the early 1980s as a part of the park’s fire management program.