Monday, March 26, 2018

The Aftermath of a Forest Fire

Jan here, and happy holy week to you all!

This time of year, as we celebrate our Lord's resurrection, our thoughts are turned toward new birth. New life. New growth.

As you might remember, Custer State Park was inundated by a forest fire in November and almost half of the park burned. I hated watching the smoke from thirty miles away, not knowing how much of our beloved landscape was being changed forever...or at least for our lifetimes.

The good news was that no lives were lost, none of the historic buildings were destroyed, and most of the wildlife escaped harm.

We've visited the park a couple times since the fire, but it's hard to tell just how bad the damage was under all that snow. But last week most of the snow had disappeared and we got a good look at the landscape.

Yes, parts of the park suffered awful damage. This area, near Mt. Coolidge, was the scene of the last big forest fire in the park, in 1988. It had recovered to the point where it was beginning to look like a full-growth forest again...but not now.

Even where the trees survived, it looks bad. Last year's needles were toasted to a crispy brown by the fire, and the grass was completely consumed.

With the grass gone, you can see the bones of the hills showing through.

This is what that same area looked like last May.

Yes, it's sad.

But it's spring! New life! New birth! New growth!

Do you see that hint of green? Let me give you a close-up look:

Under the fire, buried by ash, covered by snow, the grass roots still survive.

And in God's time, in God's way, life will return to this part of the park.

Meanwhile, in areas that escaped the flames, life goes on.

The first baby bison of the year has been spotted - not by us, but it's in the park somewhere. And all of these bison cows are expecting their own orange bundle of joy.

And the mountain bluebirds have returned from the south, along with the magpies.

No matter what, life remains.

Have a great week, everyone!

Jan Drexler lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her husband and growing family. When she isn't writing, she loves hiking in the Hills or satisfying her cross stitch addiction.

You can find Jan on Facebook, Jan Drexler, author, or her website, Jan


  1. Gorgeous pictures,Jan! I always marvel at the beauty of where you live -- even the stark kind post fire. But so hopeful. We are still buried under snow but there are glimpses of grass here and there. No robins yet though, which is a sure sign for us.

    1. We do live in a beautiful place!

      And I saw my first robin last week. Robins, bluebirds, red-wing blackbirds, and magpies are our early spring birds. But we know spring is REALLY here when the meadowlarks come back!

  2. Jan, unfortunately, I know all too well about the aftermath of forest fires. We are now six and a half years separated from ours, and the scars still remain, however they are slowly being hidden by the growth that has sprung up in its midst. Only one of the many reasons I love walking the woods behind our house. To realize that not only does life goes on, but sometimes things can be in the midst of the fire and not be burned. Kind of a good metaphor for life.

    BTW, I think wildfires are a way of life in the Black Hills. I remember one hefty one, I think it was near Crazy Horse, during our time there. Even in Rapid City, smoke filled the air and everything was covered in ash.

    1. It's been six and a half years since your fire? It doesn't seem like it was that long ago... I'm so glad you can watch the regrowth.

      And yes, fires are a natural thing around here. Either the forest or the prairie has a fire almost every week throughout the summer. That's why we pray for rain! We've had two dry years in a row, but it looks like we'll be getting some moisture this week. It's snowing right now. :-)

  3. Thank you Jan for the update! Still devastating but by June when we all visit there will be an abundance of green and the hopeful new shoots of things beginning the recovery process. Mother Nature is beautiful and can be disheartening at times.

    1. I'm SO looking forward to Wild Deadwood Reads in June! And yes, by then the park should be covered in a layer of velvet green. :-)

  4. I do see that hint of green. I pray everything is growing strong again soon. It definitely speaks of hope in the midst of destruction. God is good!

  5. I haven't been through the park yet this year, but loved those photos. God will always bring beauty through ashes. Sometimes it just takes awhile!

    1. You'll have to visit soon, now that the baby bison are beginning to arrive!

  6. As sad as the fires are I look forward to new growth. I remember parts that were burnt early last Spring and by mid summer already showed beautiful green. The ashes go back into the ground to help create the new life. Now I want to go hiking! Spring fever anyone?!