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Post-fire Recovery at Big Creek, part V

September 24, 2001 - December 2002


By September, 2001 the upper ridges had dried and the vegetation was most;ly yellow and brown. The south highlands of the reserve had a thick growth of deerweed (Lotus scoparius) and wild pea (Lathyrus vestitus). These plants grew in between the perennial trees and shrubs which were growing vigorously from seedlings or resprouts. One weedy species, pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata), made a major invasion after the fire and we have spent many hours attempting to remove well over 1000 plants from the reserve.


Looking up the slope toward the weather station on highlands peak. The dense growth is jim bush (Ceanothus sorediatus) which regenerated from seedlings. There is also some resprouting madrone (Arbutus menziesii) now about 3m tall. 9-25-01
 Looking down from the weather station showing the vigorous regrowth. The pace of regrowth will probably be strongly affected by the amount of rainfall in the next few years. 9-25-01

 More regrowth. 9-25-01

 Dense stands of deer weed Lotus scoparius carpet the ground on drier slopes above elevations of 1500' 9-25-01

The Dolan Ridge fireline is a case study of revegetation in a protected wild area. These photos show its current condition (September 2001)after two years of recovery. The majority of the line has fairly complete vegetative cover, with dominant plant species identical to the surrounding land, but there are some bare zones which are only partially revegetated. Two weedy species may have made some (as yet) minor invasion along the line: yellow star thistle (Centaurea sp.)and pampas grass (Cortaderia jubata).


The steepest parts of the fireline below 2000' are still somewhat bare, but are vegetated with small grasses and forbs. The water bars are in good condition. 9-26-01
Flatter areas with more soil can be very thickly vegetated so that no bare ground is visible even looking straight down. The burned area is to the left, the fire line is center, and the unburned area is to the right.9-26-01.

Looking north along the fire line, elevation 1000.' Along much of the fire line it can be difficult to distinguish the line from the surrounding vegetation (but you can see it near the top of the hill). 9-26-01 

A patch of milk thistle (Silybum marianum) just west of the fire line. "Phos-chek" fire retardant was applied along the west side of the line and appears to have fertilized the growth of thistles and exotic annual grasses. 9-26-01
 The fireline across Dolan saddle has gown over to the degree that it is not visible in the backgound of this picure. It is visible in the foreground where the water bar may be seen. The trail in the center marks the fire line of 1999. 9-26-01  The fire line looking north from Dolan Saddle is more visible, particularly just to the left of center where a steep bare zone can be seen. The highly eroded area above center is supposedly a remnant of the Rat Creek fire of 1985. 9-26-01
  At 2000' elevation vinegar (Trichostema lanceolatum) weed and dove weed (Eremocarpus setigerus) grow on steep, hot slopes. 9-26-01  They have colonized the fire line, as seen here leading up to Eagle Rock. 9-26-01


 Above 2000' elevation the dominant vegetation switches from grassland to chemise (Adenostoma fasciculatum). In this zone deerweed (Lotus scoparius) has covered the burned area for thousands of acres. Deerweed has also invaded the fire line, providing cover and root structure. 9-26-01

 Some areas of the fire line have growth back luxuriantly. Here is black sage (Salvia mellifera) and everlasting.(Gnaphalium sp.)


 There are only a couple of places as bare as this along the fire line. This bare zone extends downhill to the east about 20m. 9-26-01

 Here the chemise plants (Adenostoma fasciculatum) are resprouting into the fire line. 9-26-01
 A saddle just south of Rust Point had luxuriant regrowth of ceanothus (Ceanothus sorediatus), manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa) and chemise (Adenostoma fasciculatum). 9-26-01

 Here is the fire line extending north toward Pine Meadows, above Rust Point. Note the thick cover of deerweed (Lotus scoparius). 9-26-01
 Fire line just below Rust Point. Note a few yellow star thistles (Centaurea sp.) in the foreground. 9-26-01

 This is a photo of Henry Porter's bee camp about a kilometer south and east of the fire line. This camp was used to process honey in times past. 9-26-01

 This shows some slope failures which occurred prior to the 1999 fire along the "high ridge". This area burned in the fire. 9-26-01
 This bathtub spring was developed by Don Harlan as a water source for cattle. Located 300m southeast of the top of Dolan ridge, below eagle rock, this spring is convenient for hikers who wish to ascend Eagle Rock and Rust Point. 9-26-01

The winter of 2001-2002 brought a lot of rain in December, with moderate flooding (up to 4' on the gauge: see Big Creek stream flow graph). The water was much cleaner than during the winter immediately after the fire, although some turbidity (readings up to 40 J.T.U.) was recorded. The flooding was not extensive enough to displace the sand and gravel beds in the creek, and it looks as if the pools will remain shallow and silted for at least another year. This may prove beneficial for the steelhead, who prefer to spawn in this kind of habitat.


 Creek still clean after 1" rains in November. 11-14-01

 Water damples look clean, also. 11-14-01

 The creek did rise up later in November, to nearly 3" on the gauge. 11-28-01

 It got even higher later in December.

By the spring of 2002, the winter rains and spring sun had promoted the growth of a thick cover of perennial plants along the Dolan Ridge fire line above 2000'. Below, in the grassland, the fire line was covered in annual lupines (Lupinus albifrons) and other annual grasses and forbs.


 Looking south down Dolan Ridge to the ocean, from about 2000' elevation. The lupines in the foreground are growing in the fire line. 4-16-02


 Looking up toward Eagle Rock from the same point. This ridge line was the west perimeter fireline during the Kirk fire of 1999. 4-16-02


 These pictures show the Dolan Ridge fire line as it runs up through section 14 north of the reserve. This was mostly a hand line except the parts below Eagle Rock and above Rust point, which were opened with a bulldozer. 5-2-02

 The fire line is pretty well covered with perennial plants, including deerweed (Lotus scoparius). 5-2-02

 Chemise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) bushes are growing in, reaching about 0.5 m in height. 5-2-02

 Parts of the line are becoming blocked and are difficult to get through. 5-2-02

 Some areas of steep fire line with vigorous shrub regrowth 5-2-02

 There are some lovely patches of owl's clover (Orthocarpus sp.) along the line 5-2-02


This is Pine Meadows just north of section 14 where it joins the Ventana Wilderness Area. The fire line may be seen in the background to the right of center. The line in the meadow is completely obsured by annual grasses and yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum). 5-2-02


 For the third year in a row we spent several days chopping thistles in the fire retardant drop zones to prevent their setting seed. A large intact stand may be seen in the background. 5-22-02

 Here is reserve steward Feynner Arias hard at work. 5-22-02

 We left a few small patches for students to study and measure later in the year. 5-22-02

 We also carried out an experiment with clear plastic to see if the thistles would die. They did, as long as the plastic remianed in place and didn;t blow away. Unfortunately the grassy ridgetops are very windy so this can be difficult. 5-22-02

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