High Park fire - Josh Randall

The High Park Fire burns the Narrows canyon of the Cache La Poudre River. 300 foot flames race up the steep hillside. Check out the hundred foot tree in the flames. Photograph by Josh Randall

On June 9th a bolt of lightning started the High Park Fire near Fort Collins Colorado.  Within 24 hours the fire had grown to 10,000 acres.  The fire would rage on for three weeks covering 87,284 acres and briefly held the distinction for the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history.  257 homes were lost, but more four times that remain.  The fire spread over the Cache La Poudre canyon causing Mountain Whitewater Descents to be closed the entire duration.

We are now the proud owners of two federally designated disaster areas; one for the drought and one for the fires (two here – the Hewlitt Gulch fire in May and the High Park in June).  Not the distinctions we were looking for.  Most of the employees were out of work, but we did find some temporary work for some of them.

Helping with the cause
Josh Randall rows wildland firefighters across the Cache La Poudre River – Melissa Matsunaka, photographer

Several were able to help fight the fire by shuttling firefighters across the river.

I went rafting yesterday and the canyon is spectacular.  Pockets of cottonwood stands glow green against hills of blackened pines.  Homes surrounded by fire stand majestically erect

showing the work of those 2000 firefighters.  Hillsides of completely burnt trees sit next to untouched ones.  Patches of green stand in the patches of black.  Patches of black stand in the patches of green.  The way fire moves through a canyon can be seen at every bend in the river.  Mycanyon is still a beautiful, sparkling jewel of Colorado rivers.  Still the only “Wild and Scenic” river in Colorado.  Still the best!

Bryan Holman rowing past the ongoing destruction – photograph by Josh Randall

Cass Erickson guides her guests down the Cache La Poudre River

After the fire – rafting the Cache La Poudre River
photo by Micah O’Gan