Post-Fire Views of Devil’s Hopyard State Park

The early spring fire that burned an estimated 150  of the 860 or so acres of Devil’s Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, Connecticut, was noteworthy because brush fires that burn up to tree tops is an unusual occurrence in this region of Connecticut. But this fire was not nearly as destructive as those out West where forest fires frequently consume thousands of acres, leaving remnants of charred dead trees that once towered overhead.

At the Hopyard, most of the park remains untouched by the fire, looking as it has for decades. There are many trails to hike if you want to avoid seeing fire damage.

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Along stream banks where Skunk Cabbage and False Hellebore grow, life is completely normal.

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But follow the orange trail that leads to the Vista and eventually you’ll find fire damage. The photos below were taken April 1, 2012, about a week after the fire.

As the trail winds higher toward the Vista you begin to see evidence of fire here and there. In many areas it’s clear that fallen, dead trees burned but not nearby dead leaves.

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Other areas burned more completely.

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But life goes on. The hole at the base of this tree shows evidence of use one week after the fire.

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Below, fallen leaves burned but underbrush holds natural color.

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I find the contrasts fascinating. The tree trunk here burned nearly to its top, yet nearby trees were unscathed.

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I don’t know if the unburned paths below are evidence of man’s intervention or just the way fire acts.

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Looking down from the Vista shows remains of the fire below.

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The Devil’s Hopyard fire offers an unusual opportunity for Connecticut residents – the chance to watch a forest regenerate. In many of the charred areas fire burned the top layer of fallen leaves, but did not reach lower leaf layers. I expect that a period of rain will encourage a rash of undergrowth and, before long, green will again dominate most of the blackened forest floor.

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3 comments for “Post-Fire Views of Devil’s Hopyard State Park

  1. April 11, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    This is fascinating. I had no idea the fire did this much damage (although, as you point out, it’s minor compared to conflagrations out west). How interesting it will be to see the regeneration process. There is enough litter on the forest floor still, and unburned areas are close by . . . as you predict, green will dominate soon!

    • April 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm

      Laurrie, I plan to visit this area again after a good rain to see how it is regenerating.

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