Baker Correspondence – September 2016

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Strawberry Fire Update

The Strawberry Fire viewed from Nevada Highway 487 near Baker
                                                        The Strawberry Fire viewed from Nevada Highway 487 near Baker

On August 8, 2016, smoke was spotted in upper Strawberry Creek drainage, on the north side of Great Basin National Park. In a few hours, what had been a 15-acre fire expanded to over 2,000 acres, sending up a huge smoke column. Firefighters couldn’t even enter the canyon at first, as the whole entrance to it was on fire, from the ridgetop down to the stream and up to the other ridgetop.

The Strawberry Fire on the first night
                                       The Strawberry Fire on the first night

Wheeler Peak Campground was evacuated and the Scenic Drive closed, as the Strawberry Fire was getting close to those locations. Over the next two weeks, the fire grew to 4,567 acres, and at the maximum of over 500 fire personnel were on scene. Unfortunately, a fatality occurred during the fire, when a snag fell and hit firefighter Justin Beebe. A memorial was held for him in Montana on August 20.

The Wheeler Peak Campground and Scenic Drive have reopened, but Strawberry Canyon and the Osceola Ditch Trail remain closed for public safety. A Burned Area Emergency Response team has evaluated what needs to be done to stabilize the area, as flooding is expected. Amazingly, Bonneville cutthroat trout survived the fire in some parts of the creek. Park staff relocated them to Silver Creek.

Sedges on a stream bank regrowing from the ashes after the fire
                                                      Sedges on a stream bank regrowing from the ashes after the fire

 

Astronomy Festival, September 29-October 1

Ranger and Astronomy Festival participants watching the International Space Station
                                    Ranger and Astronomy Festival participants watching the International Space Station

Great Basin National Park’s annual Astronomy Festival will be held September 29-October 1. Join astronomers to peer into the dark skies over the park from 8 pm to midnight Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Other activities include the popular ranger talent show Thursday night, on Friday a guided observatory walk at 10 am and at 7 pm, the keynote speaker, Dr. Anil Seth, speaking about the Andromeda Galaxy. Saturday you can learn about how the Baker Archeological Site was laid out according to celestial observations at sunrise (6 am), attend a night photography workshop at 1 pm, and learn more about bats at 7 pm with the park’s bat biologists. Many more events for adults and kids will be held, with the full schedule on the park website.

— Gretchen Baker

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Don’t miss Gretchen’s great outdoor adventure blog, Desert Survivor!

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