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Impact of Rim Fire on the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek

August 24th, 2013 by Gregg Armstrong

Many of you are no doubt wondering how the Rim Fire has developed and the impact it will have on Tuolumne and Cherry Creek river trips. We’ll have better understanding over time, of course, but here is what I have been able to gather so far.

Rim Fire Facts and Figures:
On Wednesday, August 21 at 8am the fire had consumed 15,000 acres. By Wednesday evening, it had consumed 30,000 acres. By Thursday morning 60,000. By Friday morning over 100,000 acres and as of today (8/24) it is over 125,ooo acres.

Toward the east it is now burning inside Yosemite Park near Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and is threatening to continue to move to the Tuolumne Meadows area and toward Yosemite Valley.

Toward the south and west it is burning very near Pine Mountain Lake where there are 2400 homes; residents have been evacuated. The small town of Groveland, located 6 miles west is under advisory evacuation notice.

As of today, over 2000 firefighters are working to control the blaze along with 8 helicopters, 25 engines, and several fixed winged aircraft. The cost of fighting the fire so far is $5.2 million, and the fire is only 5% contained. Sixteen structures have burned and 4500 are threatened. Only one known injury has occurred and no fatalities.

The Impact on the Tuolumne and Cherry Creek
The section of river canyon through which our Tuolumne trips travel has sustained some damage, but not that much. The upper section below the starting point for the trips has burned, but mostly on the north side which is predominantly grass lands. Fortunately, the south side which contains most of the trees, has been protected.

The Cherry Creek Canyon has not been as fortunate and has sustained more damage because it was upstream of where everything started. The fire has been following the canyon up toward Yosemite since Monday. At this points the details of the fire damage to the Cherry Creek Canyon are hard to tell, and we will only know once we are able to enter the canyon again.

Season Cancellation and Long-Term Outlook
We have canceled all trips on Cherry Creek and the Tuolumne for the rest of season because access into the canyon isn’t possible. The season on both sections of river normally closes after Labor Day so we’re not able to finish the final two weeks of the year. That is a relatively small problem compared to many other users of the forest and area.

During the past 50 years of running rivers in California canyons, we have experienced several fires such as the Rim Fire. We are always pleasantly surprised to find that canyons have never been damaged to point of no repair and have bounced back relatively quickly compared to heavily forested areas like Yosemite National Park. When it comes to this fire, we are not concerned as much about the river canyon as we are about Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite.

While some say fires are a necessary part of keeping nature in balance, it’s hard to imagine that some of the beautiful forested lands we drove through and stayed in just a few days ago are now smoldering ash fields that better represent a moon scape than an earth scape. Let’s all hope the fire does not continue to burn as it as been doing since this past week.

We will post an update on the fire next week.

Until then,

Gregg Armstrong
Co-Owner All-Outdoors California Whitewater Rafting

For most recent update on the fire go to:
http://www.inciweb.org/incident/3660/

For video clips from planes fighting the fire go to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3q1gzeSC1w &

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_eGiGG1B-Q


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