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Yosemite old fire question

Posted: Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:08 am
by mort
Hi all,
I just returned from a trip just north of Tuolumne Meadows.
Smoke report: It wasn't too bad most days (Sept. 29 - Oct.4) Some smokey smell most afternoons. Red sun at sunset at upper Youngs Lake on Oct. 1.
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Question: While bushwhacking in the area near the confluence of the outlet creek of Youngs Lake and the outlet of Roosevelt lake (Conness Creek) - and the area west of there. We saw many sawed off stumps, often the tree trunk was laying adjacent to the stump. These were very old, just guessing about 100 years.
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Sometimes the stump or trunk was charred. In a few cases the tree trunk has been cut into approximately 6 foot logs and rolled a short distance. In a few cases the trunk couldn't be found. We were simply traveling in a roughly straight line west from the confluence until following the outlet of Youngs Lake almost due south. Over about 1 mile we saw 30 stumps. If our path passed these stumps randomly there would be thousands of stumps in the few square mile area.
Any idea what that was about? The terrain is very rugged. Its now a very dense Ponderosa Pine forest, near Youngs Lake there are a few Red Fir groves. Our speculation was a fire break was being created when the forest was less dense. I've found no source old fire information for this area. While there were old charred logs and wood on the ground, quite sparse, it doesn't in any way look like a fire scarred landscape.
-mort

Re: Yosemite old fire question

Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2020 8:03 am
by Enigmagic
from what I can tell Yosemite doesn't have (easily accessible?) data prior to 1930... I've read reports that the USFS has county level stats going back into the late 1800s, maybe it's worth digging around there. there were a couple fires in the vicinity more recently:
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Re: Yosemite old fire question

Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2020 1:19 pm
by ERIC
@Enigmagic That's a really cool infographic. Can you please provide a link? Or you're a GIS nerd like me, doin' your own thing here? :p

Re: Yosemite old fire question

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 7:13 am
by Enigmagic
ERIC wrote:
Fri Oct 09, 2020 1:19 pm
@Enigmagic That's a really cool infographic. Can you please provide a link? Or you're a GIS nerd like me, doin' your own thing here? :p
I just put it together in a few minutes using this shapefile and some layers for trails/water/hill shading.

I recently read a few papers on older fire stats and it seems like 1930 is about the limit for Yosemite. SEKI has data into the 1920s. One of the papers talked about the USFS data but didn't provide a reference, and I haven't found it.

Re: Yosemite old fire question

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 12:30 pm
by oldranger
9,000 feet in yosemite and ponderosa pine forest? Are you sure?

Re: Yosemite old fire question

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2020 3:10 pm
by Jim F
Mort,

I noted your suspicion that the trees were cut perhaps a 100 years ago. Let's turn the clock back a 100+ years.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s tens of thousands sheep illegally grazed in Yosemite and ravaged the terrain (which John Muir and others lamented). The Tuolumne Meadows area (including the Young Lakes area) was a "hot spot" for such activity.

The US Army Cavalry patrolled Yosemite prior to the creation of the National Park Service by Congress in 1916. On multiple occasions the Calvary removed herders from the Young Lakes area. The Young Lakes are named after Lieutenant Colonel Young. Nearby is Shepherd Lake and Shepherd Pass.

From what you observed first hand during your outing, do you think the cut trees could be related to the sheep herders in the region a century ago?

Thanks for the interesting post/observation/question.

Jim

Re: Yosemite old fire question

Posted: Sun Oct 11, 2020 3:53 pm
by mort
oldranger wrote:
Sat Oct 10, 2020 12:30 pm
9,000 feet in yosemite and ponderosa pine forest? Are you sure?
Right you are! I mistyped Lodgepole.
Thanks for noticing.
-mort

Re: Yosemite old fire question

Posted: Mon Oct 12, 2020 4:09 pm
by mort
Jim F wrote:
Sat Oct 10, 2020 3:10 pm
From what you observed first hand during your outing, do you think the cut trees could be related to the sheep herders in the region a century ago?
Hello Jim,
I hadn't considered that. The area with the cut trees could have been a route to the meadows below Young Lakes, say from Glen Aulin up to the lakes. There are several large meadows between Dog Lake and the Young Lakes benches. The lowest bench, formerly lake 0 is also a meadow. That area must have been excellent sheep forage. I like this. Of course we climbed it without cutting trees, so sheep could have done it too with out chopping any trees down. But I don't know what shepherds were thinking.
I'm undecided.
-mort
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