Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Red Hills Renewal

     The Anderson Creek Wildfire burned 600 square miles of land. Houses, outbuildings, fence and livestock were lost. These losses were undoubtedly made worse by the huge infestation of Eastern Redcedar on the landscape. But there is a significant positive to this disaster--the reclamation of the mixed-grass prairie. Prairies love fire. In a sense it cleanses the land, maintaining what should be a treeless grassland which harbors the wildlife and cattle dependent on it. Now, after a few weeks of recovery, which is hardly new for the prairie after a fire, black has turned into a colorful canvas. For the emotional and financial turmoil which beset many residents, an observant turn towards the immaculate prairie can perhaps provide solace and renewed excitement to the ranching culture that so much makes up the heart of the Red Hills. 

Citron paintbrush literally paints the regrowth with its yellow splendor.

Lambert's Crazyweed is very prevalent.
Replenishment of flowing water is an amazing side-benefit
from the eradication of water-thirsty cedars on the landscape.

Alkali Milk Vetch hangs on to a roadside anchor.

Blue Wild Indigo is perhaps the
showiest of Red Hills flowers.

Hartweg's Evening Primrose, very similar to
Missouri Evening Primrose, is another
spectacular showcase in the Red Hills.
With reduced cedar water consumption, and of course timely
precipitation events, many ponds are full.

Scarlet Globe-mallow joins with Nuttall's
Evolvulus in celebrating fire and rain.

Even giant puffballs get into the recovery act.
Within a couple of weeks after the fire and
some greatly appreciated rainfall, this fungus
was quite prevalent. And they are good eating
too if you get them fresh!
Purple Ground-cherry is spectacular
along roadsides and disturbed areas.
Scarlet-globe mallow is a prominent feature of the recovery.
Many ranchers report seeing water re-appearing in
canyons and small drainages where flow hasn't 
been observed like this for years. Of course, six
inches of rain in April helped considerably, but, 
there is expectation that base flows will persist
because of the eradication of live cedars in much
of the uplands.


  1. When I heard about the fire - I kind of hoped this would be the follow up story