On March 23, 2002 a fire burned more than 500 of the 800+ acres of the park. The fire originally began on the north side of the Arkansas River off-site. As the fire continued to spread, it came within 150 yards of the fort. It then jumped to the south side of the river and burned 400 acres of park land. About 60 fire personnel and equipment from fire departments in La Junta, Cheraw, Swink, Rocky Ford, Hasty/McClave, Bent County/ Las Animas, Haswell, Sugar City, Crowley County, Fowler, and Manzanola responded to the scene. The fire was extinguished on March 26, 2003.
Fire monitoring plots have been established on the south side of the Arkansas river where the fire did the most damage. There are six plots in all which are used to monitor the Cottonwood trees, the Cottonwood saplings, tamarisk trees, and the smaller vegetation. We hope to observe the natural plant succession after this fire.