Area Description: With red sandstone cliffs peeking out ahead, this shady grove is the first time the walls begin to narrow around you. As you first enter Wind Cave Canyon you begin to sense the combination of striking geologic features and lush vegetation that await you.
Visible Vegetation: Prairie Rose, Smooth Brome
Possible Animal Habitat:
Mammals: Bison, Mule Deer, White-tailed Deer, Coyote, Mountain Lion, Hayden’s Shrew, Porcupine
Birds: Common Nighthawk, Western Wood-peewee, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Mountain Bluebird, American Robin, Yellow-breasted Chat, Western Tanager, Spotted Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, Brown-headed Cowbird
Geology: Straight ahead on the trail to the east, you will see a cliff of the Minnelusa Formation. This formation consists of alternating bands of limestone, sandstone, and shale. It formed approximately 320 million years ago.
Thematic Information: The fire did not burn the slope to the south. As the fire burned in from the south, there are probably two reasons it didn’t burn into this area. Two factors that influence how fast and where a fire spreads are slope and moisture content. This slope is well shaded and, therefore, probably has more lush vegetation and more water in the soil. Also, and because heat rises, fires burn faster uphill and have difficulty burning downhill. The heat from a lower fire can begin to dry out the vegetation further uphill.
Recommended Student Activity:
Have students hypothesize on why the slope didn’t burn.
Lead a discussion on how and why fire speads.