The Gunbarrel Fire moves closer to the Cody-East Entrance road

Winds have blown this backcountry/wilderness fire to the east of Yellowstone Park closer to the East Entrance road.

It was started by a campfire and has mostly burned in very rugged country filled with bug-killed timber, producing a huge plume of smoke.

North winds challenge Gunbarrel fire lines. By Ruffin Prevost. Billings Gazette.

Update. August 6, 2008. Lodges near Yellowstone Park evacuated as Gunbarrel fire expands. By Ruffin Prevost. Billings Gazette.






  1. mara Avatar

    It has been reported repeatedly that the Gunbarrel Fire was started by a lightning strike on a ridge northeast of Crossed Sabres Lodge on July 26th, 2008. What is the campfire angle?

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Earlier reports said a campfire. Today it said lightning. So I don’t know.

  3. mara Avatar

    We have a family cabin across from the fire to the south. Every report I’ve read has claimed it was lightning started, and lightning did strike in the vicinity on July 26 according to first hand witnesses. I have not heard or read anything about a campfire starting it, but I do know the Northfork is undergoing an historic fire this summer either way. It will be a changed landscape for many years to come and not that it hadn’t been changing drastically in the past few years anyway with the beetle kills being worse than almost anywhere else in the country.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank you, Mara. You sound like the expert we need!

    I was shocked at how the North Fork had changed since I last spent a lot of time there in the mid-1990s. I guess this and more fires are inevitable.

  5. mara Avatar

    So right you are! Fires will be part of our Yellowstone experience for many years to come…. but that is what has shaped these forests historically. Maybe if wildfires had been left to burn naturally over the last century, every major conifer growing in the Absaroka Mountains wouldn’t have taken such a hit over the last 10 years from the limber pines in lower elevations to the white-bark pines in the upper reaches. Fires are an integral part of healthy forest. The mortality rates are astonishing, upwards of 80 to 90 percent! What once was a cabin in a mature Douglas fir forest is now a cabin standing in an open meadow with a few spindly trees genuflecting in the howling mountain winds! Studies show that with the warming of the Earth, these areas are likely to convert to sagebrush grasslands rather than back to the montane zone of Douglas firs, at least in our near future.

  6. natehobbs Avatar

    I just got back from the Windrivers and the fire there is really expanding. Its up tp 13,500 acres and expanding. Local papers are saying the fire will burn until winter. When we got there on monday we could not see anything past 100 feet in pinedale. Even the insides of shops had a smoky appearance.

    Walking into the Wilderness from ElkHart even though the fire was considerably far away you could occasionally feel a gust of heat from the fire and it carried along with it soot.
    Up above the smoke at photographers points the wind river range was hazy in appearance. From some of the passes we crossed we could see the fire in the distance.

    While we were hiking they expanded the closure zone to areas that bordered where we had hiked, Hobbs lake, Senca lake to name a few.

    Such a shame this is a campfire started thing, and that its so close to such beautiful terrain.

  7. mara Avatar

    Just for clarification purposes, the New Fork Fire is in the Bridger Teton National Forest north of Pinedale in the Wind River Range. The Gunbarrel Fire, where this thread began, is along the North Fork of the Shoshone River, in the Shoshone National Forest’s Absaroka Range east of Cody. Gunbarrel Fire was lightning started….the New Fork human…. the campfire angle has been solved. Two different fires are being confused in this thread….

  8. mara Avatar

    correction— my last post should have read “Gunbarrel Fire….west of Cody.”


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan