Signs of Recovery Seen at Sitting Bull Falls

Alamogordo, NM (October 12, 2011) – The rains are finally starting to come to the Guadalupe Ranger District and signs of recovery from the Last Chance wildland fire are beginning to appear.  Earlier this year the Last Chance wildfire burned just over 53,000 acres including the Sitting Bull Falls area.

Bright green sprigs of grass are coming up in the reseeded hydro mulch areas above the parking lot, bathrooms and cabañas.  “We are very encouraged with the signs of recovery we are seeing at the recreation site,” expressed Jim Gumm, Guadalupe District Ranger.

Many of the Texas Madrone trees died from the fire, and some are resprouting from the roots indicating the wildland fire was not as severe down by the water’s edge.  Only one Texas Madrone tree has re-sprouted from the trunk and branches which just might make it the ‘grandfather tree” in the area one day.  The water is flowing but the pools remain black from the soot, while some of the pools are greening up with moss, willows, and cattails.  There are also signs that deer as well as other smaller mammals are coming back into the area.

Four acres were hydro mulched and seeded adjacent to the Sitting Bull Falls recreation site and along the handicapped accessible trail leading to Sitting Bull Falls.  Hydro mulching is intended to stabilize the steep slopes.  Other treatments consisted of hand seeding and straw mulching 13 acres, shoring up both sides of the large double culvert system under Forest Road 276 in Sitting Bull Canyon including rip-rap on upstream side of culverts, and installation of a splash pad and cement on the downstream side to prevent further undercutting and potential failure from flooding.

The contractor for cabañas started work the last week of September and will continue repairs through the fall.  Volunteers have also done a tremendous amount of work on weekends sanding and painting hand rails and installing check dams on two miles of trails.

On September 15th mudslides flowed into the cabañas and bathrooms at the Sitting Bull Falls recreation site.  Until vegetative cover becomes reestablished in the spring growing season the burned area may continue to experience danger from rock slides, mud slide, or rocks falling in the falls area.  The flash flooding potential will also remain high until vegetation becomes re-established.

“Sitting Bull Falls will remain closed due to safety concerns as evidenced by the mud slides in September,” expressed Jim Gumm, Guadalupe District Ranger.  The area is closed right now but tentatively scheduled to open in Spring 2012 after the plants have time to respond to fall and winter moisture.

The closure at Sitting Bull Falls is part of a larger closure for the Last Chance Fire area including; Forest Service trails 68, 68A, 212, 214, 215, 217, and 226, the Sitting Bull Falls Day Use Area Facilities, and Climbing Area in Last Chance Canyon accessed by Forest Service road 525A (see attached map).  For additional information on the Guadalupe Ranger District Office at (575) 885-4181 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  You can also find us at and follow us on Twitter at