Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

Why Register?
Signing up could earn you gear (click here to learn how)! It also keeps offensive content off our site.

How Much Damage Do Forest Fires Cause to Rivers?

Recent Comments

Categories

Recent Posts

Archives

Syndicate

Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to My AOL

FlyTalk
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

July 20, 2012

How Much Damage Do Forest Fires Cause to Rivers?

By Tim Romano

The 2012 drought and fire season here in the West will surely go down as one of the worst years ever, in terms of number of destroyed homes and acreage and money lost. And the scary thing is we're just over the halfway mark.

What many people don't think about is what that destruction can do to the habitats of fish and game. While fire can obviously have positive long-term effects for overgrown forests, it can be pretty nasty in the short term – especially to rivers. And the damaging effects might last for years or even decades later.

For almost all of last month, the second largest fire in Colorado's state history scorched almost 90,000 acres of mountains around the Poudre River west of Fort Collins. The Poudre is a beautiful trout stream that we often use for fishing and rafting. A week or two ago, we had a couple days of drenching rain which basically ran off the burned hillsides for miles, dragging ash and mud with it into the Poudre. The result is something the likes of which I've never seen in person and hope I never do.

Now I'm no fisheries biologist but I can't imagine what you see in this video can be good for fish in the short or long term. The sad thing is that experts say this can happen for many years, every time there's a large rain event.

Have any of you folks ever witnessed anything like this? What were the long-term ramifications to the watershed?

Comments (5)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Koldkut wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

I'm not sure I agree with all the damage, sure some of it, but I don't see rivers get blown out here like they do back east when it rains.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I remember right, leaves contain arsenic

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2lb.test wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

My knowledge is fairly limited Tim, (Wildlife and Fisheries was my minor in college) but one thing to keep in mind is that this kind of thing was going on eons before the white man ever set foot on North America. It can't be good but it has happened before and will happen again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Matt McKinney wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

Catastrophic fires--those that burn infrequently with higher than optimal fuel loads--are quite destructive and can have long-term ill effects on just about everything, like excessive runoff. However, a proper prescribed fire regime, one with shorter return intervals and less complete destruction/consumption, would decrease fire intensity and reduce runoff problems. In fact, it would act like a charcoal filter, making groundwater recharge of streams and lakes much cleaner. The Kissimmee Chain in Florida is a perfect example.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from gappchris wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Two of my favorite streams have been affected by fires over the last few years. The runoff of ash has been devastating to both streams. The first fire was almost three years ago. This last spring the local DWR electroshocked it and found zero fish. The second happened just a couple of months ago. They had torrential rain just weeks after the fire was extinguished causing multiple large mudslides. Fish die-off was reported as far as 100 miles down stream due to the ash in the water. Just last week I got a first hand look and my guess is that there will be ash washed into the river for at least a few years. I expect it will be a decade before either recovers. Incidentally, the first was a prescribed burn that got out of control. The forest service assured everyone that the fire would never reach the drainage in question. They were wrong.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Koldkut wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

I'm not sure I agree with all the damage, sure some of it, but I don't see rivers get blown out here like they do back east when it rains.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if I remember right, leaves contain arsenic

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2lb.test wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

My knowledge is fairly limited Tim, (Wildlife and Fisheries was my minor in college) but one thing to keep in mind is that this kind of thing was going on eons before the white man ever set foot on North America. It can't be good but it has happened before and will happen again.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Matt McKinney wrote 1 year 37 weeks ago

Catastrophic fires--those that burn infrequently with higher than optimal fuel loads--are quite destructive and can have long-term ill effects on just about everything, like excessive runoff. However, a proper prescribed fire regime, one with shorter return intervals and less complete destruction/consumption, would decrease fire intensity and reduce runoff problems. In fact, it would act like a charcoal filter, making groundwater recharge of streams and lakes much cleaner. The Kissimmee Chain in Florida is a perfect example.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from gappchris wrote 1 year 29 weeks ago

Two of my favorite streams have been affected by fires over the last few years. The runoff of ash has been devastating to both streams. The first fire was almost three years ago. This last spring the local DWR electroshocked it and found zero fish. The second happened just a couple of months ago. They had torrential rain just weeks after the fire was extinguished causing multiple large mudslides. Fish die-off was reported as far as 100 miles down stream due to the ash in the water. Just last week I got a first hand look and my guess is that there will be ash washed into the river for at least a few years. I expect it will be a decade before either recovers. Incidentally, the first was a prescribed burn that got out of control. The forest service assured everyone that the fire would never reach the drainage in question. They were wrong.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

bmxbiz-fs