View Full Version : Fire leaves new look at national park: burned cacti

06-17-2011, 09:31 PM
I had heard earlier that the visitor center at the caverns was evacuated and closed. I didn't realize just how close the fire was to it though (pic at link). We were there not to long ago. The drive up to it is usually very beautiful. Wonder how long it will take for the wildlife to grow back and not look so charred? It took awhile when they had a similar fire in Cloudcroft a few years ago. I also heard that we recently had a fire in Ruidoso also (two men were arrested for arson in that fire).

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Visitors are returning to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, but gone are the postcard-like vistas along its main highway.

A fast-moving wildfire reduced to ash many of the spiny cactus pads and leggy ocotillo plants that lined the canyon.

"It looks very different. It's very black," Paula Bauer, a park management assistant, said of the vegetation along the road that winds into the heart of Carlsbad Caverns. "We know eventually it will grow back but right now it's in a stark, barren state."

The fire started Monday and scorched more than 30,400 acres in four days, including 8,200 acres inside the southeast New Mexico park. It shut down the popular tourist destination for three days.

Crews bolstered lines and conducted back-burn operations to protect the park's visitor center and employee housing, along with the natural entrance to one of its main attractions, a giant underground cave.

The smoke was gone by Thursday, and crews had the blaze 90 percent contained by the end of the week. They continued to mop up and watch for hot spots Friday as visitors made their way along the highway.