Grand Teton National Park Foundation

Renewing Trails Destroyed by the 2016 Berry Creek Fire

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

The Berry Creek Fire of 2016 was the largest wildfire in Grand Teton National Park’s history, scorching over 20,000 acres of timber and grassland. The blaze destroyed extensive stretches of trails and trail structures, such as bridges, retaining walls, causeways, and timber steps.

A fire module unit protects the Lower Berry Patrol Cabin from being burned in the 2016 Berry Fire.

In 2018, park trail crews, with funding from Grand Teton National Park Foundation, began repairing and restoring much of the damage caused by this historic fire.

A large part of the undertaking of the project is to re-establish burned trails, which can literally disappear into the ash and fallen trees. After surveying through the burned area, crews began to scratch-in a line that will become the new trail. This entails long hours utilizing various digging and hand tools, with crew working side-by-side in a fire-line fashion. The challenge of creating new trail tread came after the crew cleared hundreds of trees in the area, often with only cross-cut saws. Two trail crews from Grand Teton, including the Youth Conservation Program, reclaimed over five miles of trail in Owl and Webb canyons using this technique.

Park and Foundation staff take a group through the burned area of the Glade Creek Trail. Note the difficulty in delineating the trail as new vegetation takes over. In a low-lying area that floods every spring, this bridge was replaced during this summer’s reconstruction project.

Timber work to replace bridges and log causeways comes after the trail has been recut. Bridge-building is tedious and time consuming as crew workers are constantly measuring and calculating to ensure a perfectly level and square surface for both hikers and horse users. One bridge was replaced in 2018, with another one slated for construction next summer.

Crew leader Josh Moore levels a decking board in preparation for the final stage of building a bridge along the Glade Creek Trail.

By the end of the summer, trail crews had cleared ten miles of trail from downed trees and brush, repaired drainage features along thirteen miles of tread, installed a 140-foot long retaining wall, and constructed a 36-foot long bridge, among many other structures. The work is not done, however. Fire damaged tread will continue to erode over time, which will necessitate construction of additional retaining walls, bridges, and drainage structures. This work will take place in summer 2019.

A trail crew worker carefully crosses the burned Glade Creek bridge. This bridge will be among many structures replaced in the summer of 2019.